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The biggest flaw with Hagan’s Senate bid

It wasn’t “Kay and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” but for what should have been her moment to shine in the spotlight, it was pretty close.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan filed for reelection in Raleigh on Monday and had the television cameras to herself. But instead of delivering a forceful launch, she demonstrated why so many N.C. voters are lukewarm about her. She’s cautious, parses every word, and frequently avoids taking a definitive stand on an issue until the political ramifications are clear – if even then.

On Monday, the topics to dodge were health care reform and coal ash.

The Democrat knocked off incumbent Elizabeth Dole in 2008, in part on the wave that Barack Obama created that year. Now, Republicans and outside special interests are trying to make Hagan’s support of Obama – and, specifically, Obamacare – the central issue of the election.

Hagan, like Obama, promised voters that if they liked their health insurance plan, they could keep it. PolitiFact dubbed that the Lie of the Year. It was not surprising, then, that reporters asked her on Monday about health care reform.

Incredibly, Hagan was not prepared to answer. Asked several times when she learned that not everyone would be allowed to keep their plan, Hagan avoided answering. Finally, she said, “It wasn’t clear that insurance companies were selling substandard policies.” The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield responded that Hagan’s comments “are simply not true and she should know better.”

She also refused to comment on Sen. Richard Burr’s recent health care proposal and didn’t answer a question about whether she has confidence in N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller, who has been under fire recently.

She was even hesitant when talking about Duke Energy and its coal ash ponds. Up to 39,000 tons of coal ash spilled from the company’s pond in Eden into the Dan River earlier this month – the third-largest spill in U.S. history. After years of environmentalists’ study, Republicans and Democrats alike have said Duke needs to close the ponds and store the ash in dry, lined landfills.

Hagan? She thinks we need to study the issue further.

“I think we in North Carolina have really woken up to the disastrous problem that has just recently taken place here,” she said, according to WRAL. “… When you think that just a broken pipe has caused this amount of leakage, and we know that we have 36 coal ash ponds in North Carolina, it is a serious issue, and we need to study it.” She added that “I certainly want to review the science” on coal ash storage.

This approach, not her eventual votes and policy stances, is her biggest vulnerability in this campaign. As Hagan spends millions she receives from special interests to counter the millions her special-interest opponents spend against her, North Carolinians will try to look beyond the mudslinging. They will want to see a candidate who knows what she believes and isn’t afraid to articulate it, even if it upsets her base or the giant utility that helps fund her campaign.

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