White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended Tuesday the decision of Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., to skip an event in the Tar Heel State, citing the Senate’s potential voting schedule.
The Senate is currently considering an extension of unemployment benefits, and North Carolina ranks 15th in highest jobless rates by state. Senators could also vote on legislation to avert a government shutdown.
“I think Sen. Hagan’s office has addressed that,” Carney said in his daily press briefing. “I think she’s here working on important business. The president looks forward to his visit to North Carolina.”
Hagan previously has attended events in North Carolina with the president. But in 2014, Hagan must do a delicate tango of voting with Democrats on Capitol Hill while trying to create distance from Obama at home. Her most likely GOP opponent is state Speaker Thom Tillis, and the race is rated Tilts Democrat by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.
Obama carried North Carolina in 2008, when Hagan was first elected to the Senate. Since then, the president’s popularity in the state has dipped. He lost to Republican Mitt Romney there by a narrow margin in 2012.
Across the country this cycle, Obama’s role in the midterms likely will be more behind-the-scenes with friendly audiences of rich donors than on the stump. Unless, of course, his popularity swings back in some of these battleground states. In which case, maybe senators like Hagan could do more to rearrange their schedules to stand at Obama’s side.