Though Barack Obama and Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) will both speak at the American Legion convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday, Senator Hagan’s office would not confirm late Monday whether the two would appear on stage together.
The convention’s website provided no information on the times Hagan and Obama were scheduled to make their remarks. The general session begins at 8:30 am and ends at 4:00 pm, so it is possible the two will not cross paths.
The White House announced on Friday that President Obama would be speaking to the American Legion on Tuesday. Later on Friday, Hagan, facing a heated contest to retain her seat in the Senate, attempted to distance herself from Obama, who lost North Carolina in 2012 to Mitt Romney and has seen his standing in polls there plummet even further since.
In a press release, Hagan stated “[t]he Obama Administration has not yet done enough to earn the lasting trust of our veterans and implement real and permanent reforms at the VA. I hope to hear the President address these challenges at the American Legion’s National Convention in Charlotte.”
Monday afternoon, Thom Tillis, Hagan’s Republican rival in the November election, called Hagan’s efforts pure political theater.
Hagan, said Tillis, is merely a “rubber stamp” for Obama’s policies. Hagan’s spokesman pushed back, claiming Tillis was treating the veterans attending the American Legion convention as “political pawns.”
The White House decision to attend the American Legion event placed Senator Hagan in an uncomfortable political position. Should she choose to arrange her schedule to be photographed with President Obama, that image will almost certainly be used by Mr. Tillis in political ads tying her to President Obama. Should she avoid such a photo opportunity, it will highlight her own attempts to distance herself from Obama, which could hurt her support among staunch Democrats.
Mr. Tillis will not be a featured speaker at the convention, nor will he be in attendance.
Recent polls show that the race is very close. In a two-way race, Hagan leads Tillis by one point. When Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh is included, Hagan’s lead over Tillis jumps to four points. Most of Haugh’s 8% support comes at the expense of Tillis.