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Ellison’s Election Tip Sheet

Ellison Barber election tip sheet
• October 10, 2014 12:00 pm

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SENATE: GEORGIA

Read my other story. Please.

SENATE: NORTH CAROLINA

Hagan is on a winning streak when it comes to polls, and she has been for the past month, but with a very narrow lead.

USA Today reports:

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is clinging to the narrowest of leads over Republican Thom Tillis, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll of North Carolina finds — disappointing news for Democrats who thought she was beginning to pull away from her challenger.

After seven weeks of fierce campaigning and millions spent on negative ads, the crucial Senate race in the Tar Heel State hasn't budged: Hagan at 47%, Tillis at 45% and libertarian Sean Haugh at 4%. In mid-August, the poll also had shown Hagan with a 2-point lead.

That leaves three states where the contests remain closest — Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina — and the fate of Senate control probably rests.

"The race is on," says Jennifer Duffy of the non-partisan Cook Political Report. "The one the Democrats were beginning to think they had put away is still in play."

North Carolina is incredibly important for Republicans. There are ways they can take control of the Senate without it, but it’s a seat they were expecting to pick up in November and was one of the seemingly easier flips. Not having a comfortable lead here makes it a tighter and more difficult route to get the 51 seats they need for a majority.

Naturally, there are various factors we can point to as reasons for why Republicans are underperforming in this state. One of those reasons is the third party candidate.

The libertarian candidate, Sean Haugh, has received quite a lot of press time this week and it’s because he is making things more difficult for the Republicans. Haugh won’t be a surprise winner, but he is worth watching because he’s currently pulling in five percent of likely voters. When Hagan is ahead by two to three points, Haugh’s five percent—which is largely comprised of potential Tillis voters—is enough to negatively impact Tillis and give Hagan the win.

In a Tillis-Hagan match up, Hagan is ahead by an average of 2.4 points, according to Real Clear Politics. When it’s a three-way race, she’s ahead by an average of 3.2. Haugh participated in last night’s debate, and for now, he’s worth keeping an eye on because he could impact the race in Hagan’s favor.

SENATE: KENTUCKY

The Weekly Standard has uncovered internal campaign memos on how Democrat Allison Lundergan Grimes should target her message when speaking to different news outlets.

The Weekly Standard writes:

The memos, which were drafted on September 26 to prepare Grimes for today’s meeting with the Courier-Journal as well as an October 14 meeting with the Kentucky Enquirer outside Cincinnati, are addressed to the candidate and provide her with background material on local and national issues, talking points for her to use on those issues, information about the newspaper, and photos and biographies of the members of the editorial boards. The memo describes the Courier-Journal as having "a wide reach with a large, liberal audience" and mentions the possibility the paper could endorse Grimes.

One heading in the memo, labeled "GUN COMMERICAL – DISAGREE WITH PRESIDENT ON GUNS," directs Grimes to say she disagrees with Obama on gun control. "We shouldn't be banning guns based on things like their grips as a bill supported by Obama tried to do," reads one bullet point. The heading refers to a TV ad Grimes released last month, which shows the Democrat shooting clay pigeons in a field while her voiceover rebuts charges from her Republican opponent, Sen. Mitch McConnell. "I’m not Barack Obama," Grimes says, lowering her shotgun and turning toward the camera. "I disagree with him on guns, coal, and the EPA."

Every campaign does something like this, but it’s always interesting to see because it gives you insight into how campaigns work and memos like this will often show you what a specific campaign sees as their own flaws. That’s what you see here and that’s why it’s interesting, even if it’s not necessarily surprising her campaign is doing this.

The question is—is she getting good advice when it comes to actually doing interviews with the editorial boards?

After these memos were leaked, Grimes sat down with the Courier-Journal’s editorial board and refused to tell them whether or not she voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. She was asked repeatedly and stumbled around trying not to answer it before settling on "I respect the sanctity of the ballot box, and I know the members of this editorial board do as well."

It was a terrible sequence of answers that made her appear incapable of taking responsibility for her own decisions or too weak willed to stand up for them—she looked ridiculous, as Chuck Todd explained on MSNBC and if someone advised her not to answer the question, it was terrible advice. If they didn’t, maybe "How to answer, ‘Did you vote for Obama in 2008 and 2012?’" should be included in the next internal memo.