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August 20, 2008

North Carolina Senate race tightening

My colleague Marty Kady, just back from the campaign trail in North Carolina, files this dispatch on the tightening Senate race between Sen. Elizabeth Dole and state Sen. Kay Hagan:

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- North Carolina’s Senate race is suddenly one of the hottest in the country, with a new poll out today showing Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Democratic challenger Kay Hagan in a dead heat.

The InsiderAdvantage/Poll Position poll released today shows Dole and Hagan both just below 40 percent each, with nearly 14 percent undecided. It’s not clear yet if this is an outlier poll -- Other polls have shown Dole up by anywhere from six to 10 points. But clearly Hagan’s national money -- some of it from MoveOn.org -- is having an impact on the race.

Having just returned from the Tobacco Road campaign trail, this Scorecard contributor noticed that Hagan’s strategy is to go right after Dole, ripping her in public forums, press releases and advertisements, trying to chip away at the sterling image Dole has cultivated as North Carolina’s favorite daughter.

Dole and Republican surrogates around the state told us that this strategy won’t resonate with North Carolina voters, who still enjoy Dole’s celebrity status.

Hagan, a state senator from Greensboro, told us that her goal in being tough on Dole is “to show a contrast” in their styles. She is trying to portray Dole as genteel yet disconnected from her home state, while Hagan is playing up her lifelong roots to the state.

But just as the polls are getting closer, Dole looks like she’s getting feisty. Today Dole went on the offensive, saying MoveOn.org’s money coming into a Senate race in a strong military state like North Carolina will backfire.  MoveOn.org members have contributed nearly $66,000 to Hagan’s campaign.

Retired Gen. Lt. General Buster Glosson, chairman of Veterans for Dole, said MoveOn is “probably the most left-wing group of any consequence in the entire nation and they are coming to North Carolina to try and buy an election for their friend Kay Hagan.”

UPDATE: MoveOn.org's members have contributed $66,000 to Hagan's campaign; the contributions did not come directly from the liberal advocacy group, as an original post suggested.