Showdown in North Carolina

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • TUNE IN TONIGHT: With less than a month to go before Election Day, ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS is set to moderate a one-hour U.S. Senate debate tonight in Raleigh, N.C. between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and her challenger, Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis. The debate, hosted by the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation, will be aired live on television and radio stations throughout the state. It will also be streamed live on, on the ABC News app on your mobile device and on ABC News on Apple TV beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern: Follow @ABCPolitics for live tweets from the debate.
  • STATE OF THE RACE: While endangered Democrats are struggling across the map, Sen. Hagan has maintained a slim, single-digit lead over Tillis in the Tar Heel State. The freshman Democrat leads her opponent by four points among likely voters, 44 to 40 percent, according to a recent NBC-Marist poll. Tillis, 54, has stuck to the Republican playbook, depicting Hagan as a rubber stamp for President Obama and an ineffective lawmaker caught in Washington's dysfunction, ABC's BEN SIEGEL notes. With little room for error, Hagan, 61, has balanced the defense of her record with criticism of Tillis for the state legislature's rightward shift. She's benefitted from a sizable cash advantage that has allowed Democrats to flood the airwaves while Tillis has turned to national Republicans like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for help on the trail. Tuesday's debate gives Tillis and Hagan a chance to build momentum for the final stretch of a race that remains too close to call.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: As the North Carolina Senate candidates prepare for their next debate tonight, it's worth remembering what's made this state stand out so far. Democratic insiders entered the year more worried privately about Sen. Kay Hagan than any of her red-state colleagues. And yet she's shown persistence, mostly by shifting the debate from her and President Obama to her opponent, Republican Thom Tillis, also a known quantity in the state as speaker of the North Carolina House. Hagan stands virtually alone among endangered Democrats in demonstrating a consistent, if narrow, polling lead. This dynamic, local vs. national, will color a busy final month, in North Carolina and beyond. And if the national mood shifts decisively against the president and his party, the state Obama won and then lost may look different in four weeks than it does today.

ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Former President Bill Clinton's sales pitch in the final month of the mid-term election campaign can be summed up like this: Yes, President Obama may not be popular, but he's only around for two more years, so why cast a "protest vote" against him? As he reveled in the glow of his Arkansas admirers Monday during his first campaign appearance this fall, Clinton didn't waste much time talking up Obama's policies. But he warned voters, particularly those who benefit from government and see a role for it in their lives, to look beyond Obama. "Don't vote for what they tell you you have to be against," Clinton said at one stop. "Vote for what you know you should be for." His words also contained an unspoken message for disaffected Democrats: Help is on the way. By help, of course, he means Hillary. He never said her name - he didn't have to - as he reminded voters Obama has only two short years left in the White House.



WHO'S AFRAID OF BILL CLINTON? NOT TOM COTTON. Tom Cotton grew up watching the political rise of Bill Clinton, but this week the GOP U.S. Senate contender in Arkansas is in Clinton's crosshairs, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ and JEFF ZELENY note. Even so, you won't hear Cotton say an ill word about Clinton. He needs some of those former Clinton supporters to vote for him if he's going to defeat Sen. Mark Pryor, a two-term Democrat. Cotton is reserving his fire for President Obama. "I'm not worried about Bill Clinton's support for Mark Pryor. I'm worried about Mark Pryor's support for Barack Obama," Cotton told ABC News. "And in the end, it's Mark Pryor who's on the ballot, not Bill Clinton. And it's Mark Pryor's support for Barack Obama's policies that Arkansans are going to be voting on." With the midterm elections one month away, Clinton is kicking off an aggressive campaign schedule back home in Arkansas. He is trying to persuade voters in Arkansas to send Pryor back to Washington, rather than electing Cotton.

NOTED: BILL CLINTON ON BEING A GRANDFATHER. Clinton returned to his home state of Arkansas Monday boasting a new title on his accomplished resume - grandfather. While shaking hands here at the University of Central Arkansas, Clinton told ABC News that his new granddaughter Charlotte is doing "wonderful." "She's wonderful," Clinton told ABC News, giving a big thumbs up. WATCH:

WHAT THE SUPREME COURT'S MOVE ON GAY MARRIAGE MEANS. In a move that surprised almost everyone, the Supreme Court decided yesterday that it would not hear any of the gay marriage cases currently before it - dramatically expanding the number of states that allow gay marriage, ABC's ARIANE DE VOGUE reports. The decision means that, for now, the Supreme Court has sent the message it doesn't want to step into the debate regarding gay marriage. It also means that same sex couples in Indiana, Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma and Wisconsin will be able to marry in short order. The Supreme Court's move directly affects the five states, but other states in that jurisdiction will also be affected - possibly bringing the number of states that allow gay marriage up to 30. It sends a strong signal that the Supreme Court wants this issue to percolate in the states.

NOTED: MEET THE FIRST COUPLES TO THE COURTHOUSE IN ALEXANDRIA, VA. "Are you kidding?" Dawn Turton asked a cluster of reporters and cameramen outside the courthouse in Arlington, Virginia. "We couldn't wait." Turton and her partner, Beth Trent, came as soon as they heard that the Supreme Court had declined to hear challenges to same-sex marriage. That announcement paved the way for clerks at courthouses like the one in Alexandria, Va. to begin offering marriage licenses, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. "We had our ceremony in 2011, and so this was just, you know, making it official," Turton told reporters. She said she never expected same-sex marriage to be recognized in Virginia so quickly. Scoffing at the idea, she said she thought her home state would be last in the nation to do so.

DID BIDEN APOLOGIZE FOR TELLING THE TRUTH? Twice in as many days, Vice President Joe Biden did something Obama administration officials rarely do - apologize for offending a foreign leader. According to ABC's DEVIN DWYER, Biden called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Sunday to try to quell an international diplomatic furor he created during a speech at Harvard on Friday, according to the White House. Biden had suggested that several Arab state allies of the U.S. in the Middle East, including Turkey and the UAE, are the "biggest problem" in the effort to combat Islamic extremists in Syria. Biden "wanted to clarify that his recent remarks regarding the early stages of the conflict in Syria were not meant to imply that the UAE has facilitated or supported ISIL, al-Qaida or other extremist groups in Syria. And that was the message that he conveyed," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said of the call to the crown prince.

TOP U.S. ANTI-ISIS DIPLOMAT: BIDEN'S COMMENTS 'IMMATERIAL'. Vice President Joe Biden's criticism of Gulf nations for funding extremists is not deterring them from helping the United States' anti-ISIS efforts, ABC's ALI WEINBERG reports. "That's pretty much immaterial," Rick Stengel, Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, said in an interview with ABC News. "I think it's rainwater on the ocean." Asked whether Biden's comments were harmful given that Stengel just returned from a trip that took him to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - both countries Biden called out by name in remarks at Harvard University Thursday - Stengel joked that the Vice President wasn't thinking about the undersecretary's trip when he made those remarks. "You think he was thinking about me when he said it?" he asked.


YOU KNOW THE KOCH BROTHERS: NOW MEET THE KOCH SISTERS. Joyce and Karen Koch aren't related to each other. But that's not important; they're sisters "in spirit." What they really want you to know is that they're not related to the Koch brothers, the billionaire conservatives funding political candidates and causes nationwide. Because of their famous surname, Karen, 51, a community college professor in Michigan, and Joyce, 71, a retired Iowa social worker now living in New Jersey, were recruited by labor activists at the AFL-CIO to be the faces of the labor group's "Koch Sisters" ad campaign attacking the reclusive oil and gas tycoons. In a recent interview with ABC's ERIN DOOLEY, the Koch sisters showcased their more jovial side, dishing on the Koch bros, and their own new-found fame.


AMERICAN BRIDGE UNVEILS NEWEST 'KOCHVILLE' VIDEO TARGETING SCOTT BROWN. The latest in a series of animated "Kochville" web ads from the Democratic super PAC American Bridge is out today, and this one is taking aim at New Hampshire GOP Senate hopeful Scott Brown. The Democratic super PAC says, "Scott Brown has been a fiend for Koch cash for years now. After receiving the billionaire brothers' backing in his 2010 special election, Brown was caught thanking David Koch profusely and begging for more financial support for his 2012 election." American Bridge's online advertising campaign seeks to tie several candidates in competitive races to the billionaire Koch brothers. WATCH:


-KANSAS: CRUZ NEXT IN LINE TO STUMP FOR ROBERTS. Following the release of more dismal poll numbers for endangered three-term incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, his campaign has called on Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz to help him kick off a four-day bus tour stretching across the Sunflower State. Roberts has so far brought former Sen. Bob Dole, Sen. John McCain and former Gov. Jeb Bush to the state. Cruz's booking, along with an appearance by Sarah Palin two weeks ago, shows the Senator trying to appeal to all ends of a diverse Republican Party as he attempts to rebound from an unexpectedly tough challenge from Independent candidate Greg Orman. - Alex Mallin

-ARIZONA: AHEAD OF FIRST DEBATE, MCSALLY OUT WITH TWO SPANISH ADS. Before Republican Martha McSally dukes it out against Democrat Rep. Ron Barber in their first debate tonight, her campaign pushed an appeal to Arizona's Hispanic voters in two new ads. McSally released her third ad in Spanish yesterday, titled "Dedicado," which highlights her upbringing by a single mother, her military service, affordable education and jobs. McSally is also one of three GOP midterm candidates to enjoy the support of a new Spanish ad paid for by The Chamber of Commerce featuring former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. In the ad fluent Spanish speaker Bush tells voters McSally will create a stronger economy. WATCH: // - Ali Dukakis


WHITE HOUSE ADVISER, SEXUAL ASSAULT PREVENTION ADVOCATES TO SPEAK AT GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY FORUM. Lynn Rosenthal, White House Adviser on Violence Against Women; Tiffany McNair, a White House Fellow and an OBGYN at John Hopkins University; and Rosemary Trible, President of Fear 2 Freedom, a Newport News, Va.-based advocacy group that works to comfort victims of sexual assault, will all take part in an event at George Mason University today designed to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses. They will be joined by George Mason President Angel Cabrera at the university's Freedom and Learning Forum, a twice-yearly dialogue series. "A critical answer to ending sexual assault on college campuses is to educate students on the effects, repercussions and the lifetime impact that sexual assault has on the victim," Trible said in a statement. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month - across the country, one in five college women are victims of sexual assault. Mason students will write personal notes of encouragement and assemble recovery kits for adults and children who are victims of sexual assault. The forum begins at 3:30 p.m. Eastern at the Front Ballroom in the HUB Student Center at George Mason. For more information:


@AliABCNews: Know where US doesn't have an ambassador? Turkey, that crucial nation in fight against ISIS. But that changes today w/ John Bass swearing-in

@ajdukakis: On potential 2016 bid, @CarlyFiorina to @jeffzeleny : 'I never shut doors' @abc @YahooNews #PowerPlayers #TheFinePrint

@CarolLeonnig: Death threats against Obama: 60 percent made online via @washingtonpost

@ThePlumLineGS: . @cam_joseph reports that the NRSC has quietly pulled its TV ad spending out of #misen : …

@realDonaldTrump: I can't believe Mitch McConnell isn't way up in the Kentucky polls. Massive seniority brings so much power and status to State. Brings K.$'s