Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Republican challenger Thom Tillis met in a lackluster one hour debate moderated by liberal CBS news personality Norah O’Donnell Wednesday night in North Carolina. The debate failed to move the needle in favor of either candidate.
Aided by a string of predictably liberal-friendly questions posed to both candidates by O’Donnell, Hagan struck an aggressive tone against her challenger, blaming Tillis repeatedly for the Republican “War on Women,” because he “doesn’t understand the needs of women” and is “out of touch with women.”
Hagan also attacked Tillis as a supporter of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, an issue served to her in a setup worthy of Candy Crowley by O’Donnell. Tillis, Hagan said, “is denying women the rights that other women had in order to access birth control.
Tillis responded lamely, saying Hagan had not done enough to decrease the cost of contraception for women–an argument likely to prompt push back from some of his limited government, free market supporters.”We need to provide broader access and work to lower the cost of contraception,” Tillis told Hagan.
Hagan hit repeatedly on issues of redistribution and the inevitable progressive march of history. Tillis, she argued, wanted to “take us back” to the bad old days by giving tax cuts to the rich in North Carolina in his role as Speaker of the North Carolina House.
“At every opportunity he [Speaker Tillis] has fought for policies that are taking our state backwards,” Hagan said. “He’s put tax cuts for millionaires and big corporations before our students, before women, before our middle class, and ultimately before our future.”
Tillis also had failed to spend enough money on education, she argued, while Tillis argued back that as Speaker he had increased teacher salaries. “Speaker Tillis,” Hagan charged, “feels that those who have the most should get the most help.”
On immigration, Hagan defended her “yes” vote on the Gang of Eight bill in the Senate, which she claimed was “not amnesty.” She also stated that she was on record as opposing President Obama’s plan to grant amnesty through executive orders.
Tillis missed an opportunity to tie Hagan’s vote for the Gang of Eight bill to amnesty.
“I don’t know where Senator Hagan is on amnesty,” he said. “It appears as though the President is prepared to grant amnesty. I think that’s a colossal mistake.”
Tillis added that “[t]he immigration problem has been a bi-partisan failure. For years, Presidents and Congressional Members have talked about sealing the border. Not allowing amnesty.”
But again, Tillis missed the opportunity to attack the President’s anticipated efforts to grant amnesty through executive action as a constitutional usurpation of the powers of the legislative branch rather than merely a “colossal mistake.”
Despite aggressively attacking Tillis for his failure to support a redistributionist progressive agenda, Hagan repeatedly called herself “the most moderate member of the Senate.” She pointed to her bi-partisan work with Senator Inhofe (R-OK) on the successful addition of an amendment to a bill that gave veterans a minor education benefit as the crowning “moderate” achievement of her first term in Washington.
She also attempted to distance herself from President Obama, saying that she supported his policies when it was warranted, but opposed them when it was “right for North Carolina.” She cited her support for the Keystone Pipeline as one example.
Tillis countered that she voted with President Obama 95% of the time, and noted that when she ran for election against former Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) in 2008, she criticized Dole for supporting President Bush 92% of the time.
In contrast to Hagan’s aggressive attacks using the predictably divisive class warfare and gender warfare themes of liberal Democrats, Tillis’s demeanor was steady, unflappable, and moderately condescending.
The big winner in Wednesay night’s debate may have been Libertarian Party candidate Sean Haugh, who was not invited to participate. Haugh is receiving between 6% to 8% support in polls despite a bare-bones campaign consisting largely of YouTube videos.
The debate was the first of two scheduled debates between Hagan and Tillis sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation.