After $8 million in negative ads targeting Kay Hagan, help from Patriot Majority PAC is certainly welcome. Unfortunately, their current ad misses the mark. They are fighting on GOP turf and they’ve ignored the political environment in North Carolina.
Patriot Majority is responding to ads from Americans for Prosperity that blast Hagan for her support of Obamacare. To counter, the Democratic SuperPAC is bashing Thom Tillis by accusing him of siding with insurance companies at the expense of North Carolina families. That might be right for the general election but it’s not the right message right now.
Thom Tillis is in a fight for his political life. With multiple candidates in the GOP primary, Tillis may have a hard time getting past the May primary without a runoff. And if he doesn’t win outright in May, all bets are off.
Both the social conservatives and the Tea Party don’t trust Tillis. They see him as an establishment shill and they doubt his conservative credentials. By attacking Tillis as anti-Obamacare, Patriot Majority may be helping him burnish those credentials and may be strengthening him in the primary.
The ad could have gone after Tillis as just another politician who will say anything to get elected. It’s believable and reinforced by his own words and actions. And that’s a hit that hurts him with voters of all stripes, especially Republican primary voters.
Besides, it’s what the conservatives are saying already. At the same time Patriot Majority is hitting Tillis on Obamacare, the conservative website The Daily Caller is bashing him for supporting Obamacare’s state exchanges. In essence, Thom Tillis was for Obamacare before he was against it. That’s going to the core of who Tillis is, not the debatable consequences of a policy.
Somebody should certainly come in and make the case for Obamacare, but not by bashing Tillis over his opposition to the program. That’s the fight the GOP wants. If the 2014 race is just a referendum on the merits of Affordable Care Act, Hagan is in for a tough race.
Instead, Democrats and their allies need to be changing the conversation. Hagan is in trouble, partly, because she is ill-defined. They could help by strengthening her profile or by making the race more about Tillis, his record and who he is. This ad, though, is the wrong message, to the wrong audience, at the wrong time.