It was not clear how much outside help Tillis would get in the home stretch. Heading into the final month, Republican groups faced a gaping $7 million spending disparity with Democrats.Only Crossroads had reserved airtime for October. The NRSC, already stretched thin, had not put any money in.
“It was a huge investment for us. And there was talk, do we put 5, 6 million here, or do we go up and shore up these other states — because we were pretty confident in Iowa and Colorado,” [NRSC political director Ward] Baker told reporters after the election.
They believed Tillis could win, but they knew they had to close the spending gap for that to happen. Outside groups, they were sure, were not going to fill a hole that big. In the second week of October, the NRSC’s independent expenditure arm put $6 million into the race.
“As soon as we did that, a race that could have been left for dead, you saw all the other outside groups do what we hoped they do, which was all of a sudden going to their donors, and filling a $2 million hole is a lot easier,” NRSC Executive Director Rob Collins said.
A major turning point in the campaign, said Tillis supporters, was the Oct. 8 debate, after which Hagan admitted that she had missed a classified hearing for Armed Services Committee about ISIS to attend a campaign fundraiser in New York City.
It gave the Tillis campaign a concrete data point on which to hang the charge that Hagan, like Obama, was mishandling ISIS and the nation’s security. And while few people watch Senate debates, plenty of North Carolinians saw Hagan’s remarks. Three days later, Crossroads GPS, the NRSC, and the Tillis campaign were all running ads attacking her for missing the hearing.
At that same debate, Hagan took heat for her husband’s company that received money from the government stimulus, which Hagan had voted for. The story had come out in September, but those attacks amped up in the final weeks, and, in an environment where distrust of Washington is high, they hurt her.