Sen. Kay Hagan's no-show at President Obama's trip to Raleigh Wednesday continued to attract attention from observers who saw her absence as evidence she was trying to distance herself from Obama's poor approval ratings in this state and dissatisfaction with his health care initiative.
Hagan has said she stayed in Washington because the Senate was in session and she was doing her job by staying there and working. Critics weren't buying it.
Still, local and national media pointed out the disadvantages Hagan might have seen in standing by Obama right now.
N.C. Republican Party chair Claude Pope was quoted by several news outlets saying Hagan's absence was not surprising. "Obama and the liberal Democrats cannot afford to lose Kay Hagan," Pope said Wednesday during a morning press conference. "She is their rubberstamp in Washington... It's not surprising then that Kay Hagan is the one person who did not want President Obama to be here today.... The last thing Kay Hagan and her campaign consultants need right now are more photos of her standing next to the president."
A Los Angeles Times story Wednesday, "Obama's visit to North Carolina may be awkward for Democratic senator," took an indepth look at the issue. Writes Kathleen Hennessy, "The notable absence at Obama's first trip outside the Beltway in this election year highlights a perennial quandary for embattled candidates and less-than-popular presidents. With a battle for control of the Senate looming and the president's approval rating deflated, Democrats and the White House will spend much of this year grappling with whether their most vulnerable candidates will be helped or harmed by a visit from Obama and how to keep those candidates some distance — but not too far — from the president."
The piece though ends by saying Hagan will likely embrace campaigning with the president.
Hennessey writes: "Like other Democrats under pressure for supporting the [health care] law, Hagan has proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act. Her campaign has shot back at Republican [opponents], foremost [N.C. House Speaker Thom] Tillis (who is seeking Hagan's seat), criticizing his support for state-level budget cuts and a "fringe" agenda. Hagan may very well end up asking for a visit from Obama closer to election day. Victory for Democrats here will depend on high turnout in urban areas, such as Raleigh, with large numbers of young voters and African Americans — among the groups most loyal to the president."
Longtime N.C. political operative Gary Pearce told Hennessey that ultimately, Hagan will campaign with the president: "For one thing, everybody's going to want to know why you're avoiding Obama. I think you've got to. I think because if you don't there's only tension there."