In its biggest expenditure this election cycle, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Wednesday launched a $9.1 million TV blitz in North Carolina attacking Republican Thom Tillis.
The ad buy, the largest so far in North Carolina, would be paid out through the end of the campaign. It reflects both the outside interest in a race that will help decide control of the Senate and, some say, concern about Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan.
“It tells me a couple things,” said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the Washington-based Cook Political Report. “One, that she really is in trouble. They’re not going to spend that kind of money defending an incumbent who’s in reasonably good shape.
“Two, they’re going to do the negative ads because I don’t think her approval ratings can take any more hits.”
Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the buy signals that Democrats have hit the “panic button.”
“The DSCC very clearly believes that if Kay Hagan loses North Carolina, their majority is gone,” he said in a release.
Recent polls have shown the race close. Most analysts rate the race a toss-up.
While the DSCC buy is the largest expenditure, it’s not the only big spending. Democratic media trackers say Americans for Prosperity, funded by the conservative Koch brothers, has spent nearly $9 million on a series of pro-Tillis and anti-Hagan ads.
And the Senate Majority PAC, affiliated with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has spent more than $7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s first ad says Tillis, the state House speaker, drew a “bull’s-eye” on public schools. Among other things, it charges that under Tillis, the House passed a budget last year cutting education by $500,000.
The 2013 budget actually increased school spending, though fell $481 million short of what it would have taken to keep education spending at prior levels, given student population growth and other factors. Politifact, which truth-squads political ads, has called the claim “half-true.”
“Kay Hagan’s Democratic allies, including Barack Obama and Harry Reid, are trying to buy North Carolina’s Senate race with a flood of shamefully false television ads that contain outright lies already debunked by national fact-checkers,” said Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin.
The DSCC ads come a day after Hagan attacked Tillis over education.
In Greensboro, Hagan criticized Tillis’ comments during a primary debate that he would do away with the U.S. Department of Education.
“After doing so much damage in Raleigh, promising to eliminate the Department of Education as his first action is just one more reason Speaker Tillis has the wrong priorities,” she said.
Tillis campaign spokeswoman Meghan Burris said Tuesday that Tillis believes the department could be run more efficiently and help students’ needs better.