What North Carolina Can Tell Us About The Nation

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • DEBATE REWIND: Last night, ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS moderated a one-hour U.S. Senate debate in North Carolina between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and her challenger, Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis. In case you missed it, here's a rundown of the five feistiest exchanges between the candidates, courtesy of ABC's BEN SIEGEL. http://abcn.ws/1oQ2o6P You can also watch the debate in its entirety thanks to our friends at University of North Carolina Television: http://youtu.be/whKqKyghdrc And if you want the abridged version, ABC's RICHARD COOLIDGE has put together the North Carolina Senate debate in 95 seconds. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/1rVAcCU

Here are four top takeaways from ABC News Political Director RICK KLEIN:

  • FOR DEMOCRATS, ALL POLITICS ARE LOCAL: Starting with her opening statement, Sen. Kay Hagan made clear the terrain she's most comfortable in is Tar Heel blue. From tax cuts to education, gender equity to student loans, she sought to make Speaker Thom Tillis' record on pocketbook issues the focus. It's easier to do against Tillis than most candidates, given his record in the state legislature. But Democrats are trying similar techniques in races across the country, as they seek to keep the spotlight away from the Obama agenda where possible. They want a choice, not a referendum.
  • FOR REPUBLICANS, ALL POLITICS ARE NATIONAL: And they're quickly becoming international. Tillis didn't miss an opportunity to fault President Obama: "This president has failed to lead the world," he said directly. The frame allowed Tillis to link disparate issues; ISIS plus immigration plus Ebola, all put together as Obama's - and Hagan's - fault. It was a glimpse of how Republicans are jumping on headlines, and the stew of troubling world developments, to nationalize an election they want to turn on broad voter anxieties.
  • DISTANCE FROM OBAMA IS VALUABLE FOR DEMOCRATS: But it's hard to achieve in practice - in part because of Obama's own words. While Tillis said it was "hard to say" where he broke with GOP orthodoxy, Hagan came with a list that included the Keystone pipeline, budget cuts, and changes to Obamacare. But Tillis' repeated retorts - that Hagan voted with Obama 96 percent of the time, and quoting the president's saying last week that "every single one" of the issues on his agenda are on the ballot this fall - kept Hagan from putting as much daylight as she wanted to between herself and the president. Hagan saying she's "smack dab in the middle" in terms of Senate ideology may or may not be an effective comeback, but Obama's line last week didn't help.
  • SLASHING AND BURNING WORKS: Or at least candidates think it does. Hagan and Tillis are savaging each other on the North Carolina airwaves, in paid advertisements. They did the same in their second debate, even using their opening and closing statements to attack, attack, attack. One dominant theme: Look at my rival's record. For Tillis, that means defending legislative maneuvers and policy positions. For Hagan, it's missed hearings and briefings, plus a six-year Senate voting record. Voters who are looking for a reprieve from nasty politics should probably plan on moving out of state for a month or so.


ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Less than a month from Election Day, the one thing voters are likely sick of are attack ads and fundraising e mails. They seem to flood inboxes at a constant rate, so do they work? Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the DCCC, says yes…and even the apocalyptic-sounding ones. "I apologize all over the country for the volume of email people get, but it works. Five million dollars in August. Five million dollars," Israel said at a briefing this week, referring to how much the group raised in August alone. Much of the overview was sober, but when asked if the e mails are just too end of the world sounding? Israel said no, it's an honest assessment. "My credibility as the chairman of a political committee rests on my honesty," Israel answered when asked if the emails are too frantic-sounding. "So, I am not in the business of handing out rose-colored glasses to our donors and predicting success when we have tough terrain. I believe they respect me because they know I am honest in my assessment of the landscape." Step away from your inbox, we have 27 days left.


-ARIZONA: IN FIRST DEBATE, BARBER & MCSALLY SQUABBLE OVER ARS AD. While last night's AZ-02 debate saw familiar jabs between Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) and second-time Republican challenger Martha McSally, noteworthy was the contentious back-and-forth over a recent Americans for Responsible Solutions ad. The ad accuses McSally of supporting the so-called "stalker gap," which allows individuals convicted of a stalking misdemeanor to purchase guns. The former Air Force colonel asked bluntly, "Do you believe that ad was wrong, Ron?" Barber later retorted, "The ad was run by somebody who is highly regarded in this community and across the country for her work to prevent gun violence, and that's Gabby Giffords." - Ali Dukakis

-CONNECTICUT: A Dead Heat in the Nutmeg State, With A Possible Spoiler. In the Connecticut race for governor things couldn't be tighter…literally. Connecticut Gov. Dannell Malloy has overcome a one-time deficit and he and his Republican challenger Tom Foley are at a 43 to 43 percent dead heat in a Quinnipiac University poll out this morning, with nine percent for independent candidate Joe Visconti. He is a very real spoiler in the race. This poll compares to the 46 to 40 percent lead Foley had in a Quinnipiac poll last month. With Visconti out, it's a 46 to 46 percent tie for the two. Remember, this is a re-match. In 2010, Malloy beat Foley by just over 6,000 votes in one of the closest races in Connecticut history. MORE: http://bit.ly/1vJ5QGi - Shushanah Walshe


GEORGIA SENATE DEBATE: ROWDY CROWD AND A THIRD-PARTY SPOILER? Is Barack Obama on the ballot? Who really cares about American jobs? Why choose between Republicans and Democrats anyway? Those were the questions at play in a lively Georgia Senate debate last night in Perry, where Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue squared off-with a rare appearance from a third candidate, libertarian Amanda Swafford, who joined them onstage, ABC's CHRIS GOOD notes. In an auditorium at Georgia's state fair, the candidates traded barbs over their records and the president's, each drawing enthusiastic cheers from a split crowd as the debate moderator repeatedly called for the crowd to settle down so the panel of questioners could hear the candidates' responses. "I'm not sure he's recognized that he's not running against Barack Obama or Harry Reid-he's running against me," Nunn said of her opponent, making a case that she'll work across the aisle if elected to the U.S. Senate, telling audience members that collaboration is the best way to solve problems like the federal deficit. http://abcn.ws/1qdNtmh

Bill Clinton Back Home: Watch the Master Politician Master the Selfie. President Bill Clinton showed off his master campaigning skills in Arkansas this week as he stumped for Democratic candidates in the state and reveled in the new selfie age. The selfie phenomenon wasn't around when Clinton first campaigned for the White House in 1992, but when he returned home to Arkansas Monday, the former president, long considered one of the best retail politicians in the country, added posing for selfies to his glad-handing routine, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ, JEFF ZELENY and JORDYN PHELPS note. http://abcn.ws/1CSMeSb

WHY MARK PRYOR CALLS HIS OPPONENT 'SUPERIOR TOM.' Sen. Mark Pryor's campaign has a name for its Republican rival, Rep. Tom Cotton, that at first may sound sort of like a compliment, but it's definitely not. They're calling him Superior Tom. On Pryor's website, an entire page is devoted to describing Cotton as Harvard-educated and out-of-touch, claiming Cotton believes he is superior to Arkansans. ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ and JEFF ZELENY report that when reporters caught up with Pryor this week, after former President Bill Clinton rallied supporters for Pryor and his fellow Democrats here, a Pryor campaign aide tried to abruptly cut off questions. Byron York, a conservative writer at the Washington Examiner, asked Pryor simply: "Your campaign has called Tom Cotton 'Superior Tom.' What do you mean by that?" Pryor hesitated as he said, "Well, I just mean that ummm sometimes uhhh. I would say sometimes he sort of gives the …" Then, Erik Dorey, a deputy campaign manager for Pryor, interjected: "We're going to cut if off, thanks guys." http://abcn.ws/1EqogzB

GOP CANDIDATE FEATURES CLIP OF ISIS EXECUTION VIDEO IN CONTROVERSIAL AD. With the Nov. 4 election rapidly approaching, candidates across the country are in the final stretch of campaigns that are increasingly going negative and raising the bar for controversy. Retired Air Force pilot Wendy Rogers, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona's 9th Congressional District, is using part of an ISIS execution video in a new political advertisement to attack her opponent's national security record, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. The ad begins with a clip featuring a member of the Islamic State holding a knife as he stands over American journalist James Foley kneeling in the desert sun, moments before he is beheaded. While a handful of campaigns have invoked Foley's grisly execution since the journalist was killed in August, Rogers' take is arguably the most provocative. http://abcn.ws/10LAeEs

WHY THIS GAY COUPLE IS UNHAPPY WITH THE SUPREME COURT'S SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DECISION. While the Supreme Court paved the way Monday for several more states to allow gay marriage, ABC's ARIANE DE VOGUE reports that some gay couples wish the court had acted differently. "I think there is still a lot of hardship out there," L. Havard Scott III, a lawyer in Shreveport, Louisiana, said. He had hoped the Supreme Court might step in, agree to hear a challenge to a state ban on gay marriage and rule on the issue once and for all by June. Scott wants his marriage to Sergio March Prieto that was performed in Vermont in 2010 recognized in Louisiana. But the Supreme Court sent a strong signal Monday when it declined to hear several cases that it wants the issue to play out in the states for now. That could take some time in conservative states like Louisiana. "Every day the uncertainty goes on, the more hardship and pain will be felt," Scott says. "I think enough lower courts have made it clear that marriage is a fundamental right, and I think the Supreme Court needs to come out and say so." http://abcn.ws/1t1D2dh

FBI WANTS YOU TO IDENTIFY AMERICAN ISIS FIGHTS. The FBI is trying to crowdsource the identities of U.S. citizens who have traveled or are planning to travel abroad to fight with terrorist groups, possibly including a North American-accented ISIS member seen in a video online preparing to execute prisoners, ABC's LEE FERRAN, PIERRE THOMAS and MICAH GRIMES report. "In the video, a man whose face is obscured by a mask alternates seamlessly between English and Arabic in pro-ISIL [ISIS] pronouncements intended to appeal to a Western audience," a post on the FBI website says, referring to an excerpt from a 55-minute-long ISIS propaganda video called "Flames of War". "Dressed in desert camouflage and wearing a shoulder holster, the masked man can be seen standing in front of purported prisoners as they dig their own graves and then later presiding over their executions." The FBI notes the man appears to have a "North American" accent. After the "Flames of War" video emerged in mid-September, FBI Director James Comey told ABC News that investigating the man with the North American accent was a "big focus of ours." http://abcn.ws/1uY5IE3


@TheBrodyFile: Video Exclusive: Kansas @govsambrownback Says Mainstream Media And Liberal Left Are Out To Get Him http://blogs.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2014/10/08/video-exclusive-kansas-governor-brownback-says-the-mainstream-media-and.aspx …

@JimAcostaCNN: There was one admin official on midterm campaign trail last night. VP appeared at event with CA Dem cong. candidate Amanda Renteria

@thehill: For McConnell, it's now or never, @alexanderbolton reports http://ow.ly/Cqu90

@GeraldFSeib: Who is going to win control of the Senate, and by how much? Our WSJ interactive map lets you decide, and share: http://graphics.wsj.com/balance-2014/

@politico: Jon Huntsman says no thanks to 2016 run http://politi.co/1vNpZsN