Standing beside Republican Thom Tillis, U.S. Sen. John McCain invoked the killing of two Americans by Islamic militants Tuesday as he criticized Tillis’ Democratic opponent, Sen. Kay Hagan.
“Here we are with Americans being beheaded and Sen. Hagan doesn’t even show up for the briefing,” he told reporters. “She goes to a fundraiser instead.”
The Arizona senator made his comments during an appearance with Tillis and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the campus of Hendrick Motorsports. They later met with veterans at Charlotte Bridge Home, a nonprofit that connects veterans to the community.
Tillis, the N.C. House speaker, has criticized Hagan in thousands of TV ads for missing a February hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee to attend a fundraiser. McCain and Graham are both members of the committee.
Hagan spokesman Chris Hayden said Hagan “has a 98 percent voting attendance record” on the committee and has chaired more than 20 hearings on counterterrorism.
“It is Speaker Tillis who has repeatedly refused to tell North Carolina service members and their families whether he would support putting American boots on the ground and how he would combat the threat of ISIS,” Hayden said.
McCain said be believes as many as 10,000 U.S. advisers, special forces and support personnel are needed to stop the militants of the Islamic State, or ISIS, who have taken large areas of Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS is winning,” he said. “We’re losing.”
Tillis was asked if he agreed with McCain’s call for U.S. troops.
“What Sen. (McCain) is talking about is not having people at the front lines,” he replied. “I think we’ve got the expectation that we’re going to have partners in the Middle East and others. But we’ve got to have American expertise in advisory positions to make sure they do it right, and to make sure that once we secure the ground again, we keep it.”
The three Republicans toured the Hendrick garage and engine shop before meeting with reporters. Later they held a round-table discussion with a dozen veterans at Charlotte Bridge Home.
Graham, who is running for re-election on Nov. 4, said he got a taste of the North Carolina race when he caught Charlotte TV stations on Monday night in Rock Hill. So far, more than 90,000 ads have run about the race.
“Running for Senate in North Carolina,” he said, “is like being in a NASCAR race without a helmet or seat belt.”
Tillis is scheduled to appear in Raleigh on Wednesday with Mitt Romney.