The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday March 20th

View from the Hill

Big-name politicians make pitch for Tillis, Hagan in NC

Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton are names that pollsters have been foreseeing in the 2016 presidential primaries, though at first glance they might seem a little out of place in the N.C. Senate race between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis.

But these big names, with the exception of Hillary whose husband is doing it for her, are throwing endorsements into every Senate race they can reach, potentially in hopes that the election victors will return the favor in 2016. 

North Carolina's Senate race is a tight one so far — a recent USA Today poll showed Hagan with only a 2 percentage point lead overall. Tillis' and Hagan’s poll performances with their respective voter bases, however, are not so small. Tillis holds western mountain counties by 15 percent, white voters by 11 percent and men by 14 percent, while Hagan wins with the Triangle by 10 percent, women by 18 percent and non-white voters by 41 percent. 

Bush, Christie and now Paul are all campaigning for Tillis, but it’s a little hard to establish why. Endorsements like these from big political names are generally thought to gain a candidate support from their base voters, something that Hagan and Tillis seem to have in abundance.

Joe Stewart, executive director of the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation, said that when it comes to endorsements, election victory isn't as simple as exciting the base. Stewart said these big name endorsements are “part of a bigger narrative a campaign is trying to convey.” 

Tillis gained support from two popular conservative governors, as well as tea party favorite Rand Paul, who is often labeled a Libertarian. These three converging on Tillis in a short time frame convey a sense of unity, especially since a lack of conservative unity seems to be keeping him from overtaking Hagan.

The Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh, a pizza deliveryman, is snatching votes from Tillis with an almost unfunded campaign seemingly built on YouTube videos and a folksy southern twang.

Hagan, on the other hand, has ended up with one brand name on her side, and it’s a big one. Bill Clinton will be arriving in North Carolina at a luncheon to offer his support for Hagan.

Clinton has been on high demand in the South, heading up fundraisers for the Georgia Senate race, as well as the one in Louisiana, but he also failed to carry North Carolina in either of his presidential campaigns. Furthermore, as a Democrat in a conservative state, it seems unusual for Hagan to seek the support of such a powerful liberal brand name as the Clintons.

These visitors seem to want more than to help their respective party nominees. All of the endorsers are presidential hopefuls with the exception of Clinton, and he has been his wife’s biggest presidential campaigner in her last race and is likely to fill that role again. All of them were just stopping by in North Carolina, with plans to visit other states and make other endorsements all around.

Stewart weighed in on this: “It’s undoubtedly to build candidate name recognition with N.C. voters.”

These alliances form for better or worse, but no matter the outcome, they are tying names together. These endorsements aren’t just about which political celebrity can raise you the most money, they’re about securing a place in national politics.

The winner of this race could help the future President of the United States take an entire state down the road, and few things are more powerful than a favor from the leader of the free world.

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