Dole, Hagan Using Scare Tactics in Pursuit of the Undecided
Halloween is coming up. But there's much more on television and radio that's intended to scare you. Here's a sampling from one race: "Elizabeth Dole's Washington, biggest government ever. Nine Trillion in debt." And "Our economy in trouble, Wall Street gambling with our money piling up more debt. Sound familiar? It is. In North Carolina with Kay Hagan driving the budget our debt doubled." There's nothing to suggest that the dark, ominous tone of ads will change in the U.S. Senate race. It's a close race and both candidates and their supporters are out to make you afraid to vote for their opponent. Mike McCrea of Mooresville is the type of person both Senator Elizabeth Dole and state Senator Kay Hagan have their sights on. "I'm going to kind of be like one of those who gets into the booth and then kind of goes with it," says McCrea. Wooing the undecided voter is essential. Polls show just a few points separate Dole and Hagan. The national political parties and other third party special interest groups are joining the fray. Those groups include Move On.org, Freedom Watch, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has been one of the earliest and biggest spenders. In Charlotte alone, records at five TV stations show it's spent about $2.4 million in advertising. Andrew Taylor, a political scientist at NC State, says it's now one of the most closely-watched races in the nation. "When you look at handicapping U.S. Senate races across the country, from being probably at target number 9 or number 10 for the Democrats this has become target number 4 or number 5," says Taylor. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee isn't too far behind. As Hagan has gained in the polls, the group has ramped up its spending. It's now spent about $2 million at those same five stations in Charlotte. The presidential race has helped spur an increase in new voters. In that race Democrats have clearly won. Newly-registered Democrats outnumber new Republicans more than 2-to-1. A few are from a registration drive at UNC Charlotte. Hagan who is serving her fifth term in the state Senate, representing Guilford County, turned it into a campaign stop. Young voters approach her with questions about energy, education and healthcare. "I wanted to ask you in particular about green jobs," says Avery. "The next 10 years we'll see a transformation in energy because everyone wants to be less dependent on foreign oil. So if we want to become less dependent we have to change the way we operate," responds Hagan. "In the General Assembly last year we initiated the North Carolina Biofuels initiative and allocated $5 million then and another $5 million this year," she adds. Hagan doesn't say everything Avery wants to hear. She doesn't support a moratorium on building new coal-burning power plants and, like Dole, Hagan supports offshore-drilling. Still, Avery says he'll likely vote for Hagan. This event was in September before the Wall Street bailout, before Wachovia nearly failed and before the stock market really took a nose dive. At the time, Hagan said, "With gas prices where they are today, that's probably been taking center stage in people's mind because it's such a pocket book issue." So is the cost of healthcare. She steers clear of the most controversial health care issues and focuses on cutting costs. She wants uniform electronic patient records and says these would cut down on administrative expenses, duplicated tests and reduce medical errors. "A lot of companies are looking at electronic medical records," says Hagan. "They know the technology is there, but there has to be from a federal government standpoint to be sure that it's readable in a standardized format and that's where we got to have the public partnership come together. And it would save hundreds of millions of dollars," she explains. Because of the financial crisis Senator Dole has lost some time to campaign. So her husband former Senator Bob Dole has done some campaigning for her. He recently stopped by the Mecklenburg County Republican headquarters. "They're meeting this afternoon at the White House trying to cobble together something that will pass Congress and be a responsible piece of legislation," says Bob Dole. Senator Elizabeth Dole voted against the bailout bill that finally passed. And after the vote, Hagan said she would have done the same. In her Washington office, we asked Dole what still needs to be done to stimulate the economy" "I think there are a number of things. First of all, a comprehensive energy policy is very important," says Dole. "In terms of road repairs and bridges, we have some bridges that are getting close to the level of unsafe. So most definitely that's going to be important. We certainly need to keep taxes low," she adds. Dole has a long history in Republican politics. She was Secretary of Transportation in the Reagan administration, secretary of Labor under the first President Bush and made a brief early run for President in 1999. Now, she's seeking a second term in the Senate. "Whether it's agriculture like the tobacco quota buy-out or whether it's manufacturing where we have a whole series of accomplishments in helping get $57 million, 72 people, to oversee trans-shipments coming in from China, make sure they don't get in the customs area. Whether it's keeping taxes low and also cutting back on federal spending, my purpose has always been what's good for North Carolina. And I'm getting that message out," says Dole. And so is everyone else.