CHARLOTTE, NC, October 22, 2014 – When veteran actor/director Clint Eastwood made a surprise appearance at the Republican National Convention in 2012, he made big news by conducting a monologue with an empty chair to the extent that many critics said it was in poor taste.
As it turns out, Eastwood’s performance was nothing more than a dress rehearsal for senatorial candidate Thom Tillis (R-NC) in his campaign against incumbent Kay Hagan (D-NC).
Hagan was a no-show in the final North Carolina debate this week, which, for all intents, turned the debate into a soliloquy for Tillis.
As a political strategy, Hagan’s absence raised plenty of eyebrows as to the wisdom of such a move in a toss-up campaign with just two weeks to go. Even democratic pundits were surprised by Hagan’s decision.
Worse than Tillis having what amounted to an hour of uncontested broadcast time, was the fact that Hagan’s campaign staff was tweeting responses to their opponent’s answers during the event. That, of course, prompted viewers to ask why Hagan did not respond in person if she was planning to counter the Tillis agenda.
Neither candidate is a world beater. The North Carolina senatorial race this year is a hold-your-nose and pull the lever choice.
Hagan carries some heavy baggage into the stretch run of the campaign. Recent allegations accuse Hagan’s family of profiting from stimulus money that was allocated to their respective businesses. Another allegation is that Hagan’s husband pocketed the savings from the stimulus injection.
Combine that with Hagan’s voting record of siding with Barack Obama 96% of the time and it is not a good time for that news to be breaking in a toss-up state.
Tillis, on the other hand, has less personality than a doorknob. He also aligned himself with Republican Governor Pat McCrory to let the budding North Carolina film industry pack up and move to Georgia. That move cost the state millions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of jobs.
Two popular television series, “Homeland” and “Banshee”, filmed simultaneously in the Charlotte region for three years. Both have now departed.
Hagan’s excuse for being AWOL for the debate was that she had agreed to three confrontations with Tillis and the last event would have been the fourth.
Unfortunately for Hagan, the timing of her strategy was too strange even for broadcaster Rachel Maddow of MSNBC who questioned her motives.
Over the weekend an odd political flier popped up on the windshields of a predominantly African American church in Fayetteville. Members of Kingdom Impact Global Ministries came out of church to find pamphlets stating “Kay Hagan doesn’t win! Obama impeachment will begin! Vote in 2014.” The clincher, however, was the depiction of an apparent lynching in the background of the words.
Both candidates have been nauseatingly visible on North Carolina airwave in the past two weeks.
Though most analysts had conceded North Carolina to the Democrats, the recent developments and the absentee debate may be enough to send Tillis to Washington.
In a year when many Republicans are regarded as lightweights who can do nothing more than give their party a majority in the senate, North Carolina has become a place where Republicans could now gain a seat they were not expecting.
Should Democrats follow Hagan’s lead and not show up at the polls, it may be an interesting omen come election day.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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