Attacks Aplenty In Hagan-Tillis 2
The candidates were not on a first name basis last night as Senator Kay Hagan and Speaker Thom Tillis took part in their second debate. The tone was more formal… the rhetoric more biting.
Just 16 seconds into her opening remarks, Kay Hagan went on the offensive, saying her opponent "Gutted education. Killed an equal pay bill. Made college more expensive and said no to healthcare for 500,000 North Carolinians."
Hagan had a slim lead in the polls coming into their second debate. But she knew her opponent had fresh and potentially powerful ammunition provided by an unlikely source: President Barak Obama.
"I'm not on the ballot this fall," the President said last week, "But make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them."
It was an ill-timed and unexpected gift to Republicans made during a speech on the economy. Thom Tillis made that line his opening remark: "Last week, President Obama said every one of his policies, every single one of them, are on the ballot this November. Senator Hagan has voted with President Obama 96% of the time."
It’s an argument Tillis made at least a half dozen times during the one hour debate.
On foreign policy, Tillis and Hagan sparred over what to do about the Islamic extremist group known as ISIS. Hagan spoke first on the issue: "These individuals are terrorists. They have attacked Americans. Our mission should be to eradicate these terrorists. I have been decisive about taking out ISIS."
She said she supports arming moderate Syrian rebels and continuing airstrikes, though Hagan added that the President needs some congressional approval to move forward. Then came this: "I think when I see what Speaker Tillis has done, he is waffling on these issues. He is spineless on what he would do to take ISIS out."
Here’s how Tillis responded" "Senator Hagan and President Obama, this is a policy that needs to be on the ballot in November. They have failed the American people and they have made our nation and our world less safe and less secure. They’re coming up with a strategy to solve a problem that they largely created." Created, Tillis said, by withdrawing all US troops from Iraq despite top generals advising against it.
For the record, top generals did advise keeping troops in Iraq, but the Iraqi government refused to sign an agreement with the US allowing the troops to stay.
About halfway through, the debate switched to domestic issues. On Obamacare, Kay Hagan said she supports the law but that it does need some changes. Thom Tillis said it’s a disaster and needs to be repealed.
Then moderator George Stephanopoulos had this question for Tillis about the US Supreme Court refusing to take up gay marriage:
GS: I know you said you would fight this. On what grounds and can you win? TT: Well, you know, two years ago, 60% of the voters said they wanted to define the institution as an institution of marriage as between a man and a woman. I feel it is my responsibility after 60% of the people passed that into law to defend the laws of the state.
Tillis also did not have a specific answer as to how he would fight it, saying only this: "Ultimately, we do hope this does go to the Supreme Court."
Thom Tillis was not the only candidate left flat-footed by a question. Kay Hagan’s tough moment came courtesy of this question from Tillis himself: "Senator Hagan, last year the threat of ISIS was clear. For the last year you sat on the last year you’ve sat on the Foreign Affairs Committee. And you’ve missed half the meetings."
First, came a correction, "I am not the Foreign Affairs Committee, I serve on the Armed Services Committee." The two then bickered a bit. Then came Hagan's response,
KH: Folks, I am well informed on these issues. I am decisive on what to do to take out ISIS. But once again, speaker Tillis has waffled. He has not articulated one thing whether he would arm and train the moderate Syrian rebels. What his plan would be. TT: I wonder how much more information I would have if my Senator from North Carolina who sits on the armed services committee would show up for work.
Hagan later pointed out an editorial in the Charlotte Observer called on Tillis to resign as speaker this year because he had missed so much of the legislative short session in order to go to fundraisers.
However, after the debate, Hagan confirmed she had missed one Armed Services Committee meeting to attend a fundraiser herself.
This tit-for-tat led to one of the best twitter posts of the night… don’t cast that attendance stone unless you are without attendance sin.
A collection of live tweets from Tom Bullock and others during the debate can be seen here.