National Republican group spending $6M more to help Tillis take North Carolina's Senate seat

Economic Indicators Associated Press

The group dedicated to winning a Republican U.S. Senate majority in November intends to more than double its investment supporting North Carolina GOP nominee Thom Tillis' campaign to unseat Democrat Kay Hagan.

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In what's already considered the most expensive race in the nation, the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced Monday it has authorized spending another $6 million on ads in the final three weeks of the election backing Tillis, the state House speaker.

The NRSC, which seeks to win at least six seats from Democrats and regain control of the chamber, had already spent nearly $4 million in the North Carolina race, according to group spokesman Brad Dayspring.

Hagan, Tillis and outside groups have spent $59 million altogether so far in the Senate race, according to the Center for Responsible Politics.

Dayspring predicted the upcoming ad purchases by the NRSC's independent expenditure arm would almost level the playing field monetarily between pro-Tillis and pro-Hagan forces, based on actual or scheduled TV buys.

The expected statewide TV buys also show the NRSC is hardly giving up on the North Carolina seat even as Republican challengers in other states are performing better against Democratic incumbents.

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Dayspring attributed the $6 million injection to NRSC internal polling that he says shows "undecided voters are moving toward Thom Tillis."

"The perception among undecided voters is that Sen. Hagan has been asleep at the wheel in Washington," he added in a written statement.

Hagan, seeking her second term, has been resilient in a state that President Barack Obama failed to win two years ago after both of them won here in 2008. Hagan has benefited from a campaign fundraising advantage over Tillis, who spent heavily in a competitive May primary.

Hagan also has labeled herself a middle-of-the-road senator, in synch with her purple state, while blasting Tillis at every turn for the state legislature's recent sharp-right turn.

"Speaker Tillis has been a disaster for North Carolina, and his allies in D.C. are working hard to cover up his anti-middle class record," Hagan spokesman Chris Hayden wrote in an email.

Her campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which in August announced it would spend $9.1 million on ads in North Carolina, have criticized Tillis for education spending cuts, income taxes and issues most important to women.

Hagan's camp has unveiled three TV and radio ads since late last week, two of them highlighting decisions by the state legislature while Tillis was speaker to bar state funding for Planned Parenthood and to leave an equal pay bill stuck in committee.

The Senate Majority PAC, run by former aides of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, also has spent $10 million helping Hagan or targeting Tillis, the Center for Responsive Politics said. Tillis has benefited from ads produced by the National Rifle Association, Crossroads GPS and North Carolina-based Carolina Rising.

Tillis' ads have linked Hagan to Obama and focused on national security, accusing Hagan of failing to keep tabs on the Islamic State and to demand a strong foreign policy from Obama. Hagan said she's chaired subcommittee hearings on the threat and spoke last year in support of arming moderate Syrian rebels.