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Please begin with an informative title:

Tea Party candidate Dr. Greg Brannon (R. NC) doubling down on the crazy, stupid and cruel:


Greg Brannon, the North Carolina Republican Senate candidate endorsed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), likened being on food stamps to slavery.

"The answer is the Department of Agriculture should go away at the federal level," Brannon said in an interview with the North Carolina Tea Party highlighted by Mother Jones on Tuesday. "And now 80% of the farm bill is food stamps. That enslaves people. What you want to do — it's crazy but it's true — is teach people to fish so they can fish. When you're at the behest of someone else, you are actually a slavery to them [sic]."

Brannon has also argued that bipartisan compromises in Washington essentially "enslave" Americans. - TPM, 1/14/14

My guess is he saw today's PPP numbers:


For the first time in our polling of the North Carolina Senate race, presumptive frontrunner Thom Tillis has opened a little bit of space between himself and the rest of his opponents in the Republican primary. Tillis now leads the field with 19% to 11% for Greg Brannon and Heather Grant, 8% for Mark Harris, and 7% for Bill Flynn. Tillis has gained 6 points from his 13% standing a month ago, while Harris has declined by 4 points from the 12% he had previously. Everyone else has more or less stayed in place.

The name recognition Tillis gained by being the first candidate to run tv ads probably helped drive his increased support this month. 46% of Republican primary voters are familiar with Tillis, compared to less than 30% for everyone else in the field. Tillis is now leading in every region of the state except the Triad, where Flynn is well known from a long radio career. Perhaps more importantly for Tillis he has the lead with both conservative and moderate voters at this point.

Despite Tillis' increased support this primary would still be headed to a runoff if the election was today. If the undecided voters broke proportionately to their current candidate preferences it would only be enough to get Tillis to 34%, well short of the 40% needed in North Carolina to win the primary outright. - PPP, 1/14/14

PPP surveyed 1,384 North Carolina voters, including 575 Republican primary voters, from January 9th-12th. The margin of error for the overall survey is +- 2.6% and for the Republican primary part it’s +-4.1%. 80% of interviews for the poll were conducted over the phone with 20% interviewed over the internet to reach respondents who don’t have landline telephones.

With Tillis gaining momentum in the primary, his Tea Party opponents are fighting to tear him down:


But before the new year dawned, Cary obstetrician Dr. Greg Brannon slammed state House Speaker Thom Tillis as "an establishment-backed insider" in a fundraising appeal. Among other things, Brannon cited a scandal that forced two Tillis staffers to resign.

"His Chief of Staff – who shared an apartment with my opponent – and his Policy Analyst were forced to resign after it was revealed they were having 'inappropriate' relationships with lobbyists," Brannon wrote in the Dec. 31 fundraising appeal. "But my opponent still gave both of them 'golden parachutes' -- a full month's pay after they resigned from their position."

It was only a matter of time before Republican primary candidates turned their rhetoric on one another, said North Carolina State University political science professor Andrew Taylor.

"Both political parties are much more homogeneous than they were 30 or 40 years ago," Taylor said. "So, when you're in a primary, you need to show some differences somewhere."

Along with Rev. Mark Harris, past president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Tillis and Brannon are the front runners in the GOP field, which also includes Greensboro radio talker Bill Flynn and Wilkesboro nurse Heather Grant. Tillis has gotten the backing of established political figures, such as Karl Rove, a former aide to President George W. Bush, while Brannon and Harris have generated the most buzz among the grassroots tea party wing of the Republican Party. - WRAL, 1/9/14

Not to mention, the GOP primary recently became even more crowded:


Former Shelby, N.C. Mayor Ted Alexander (R) will join the crowded GOP field to take on Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

"It's an inner tugging that you feel God's compelled you to do it," Alexander told the Shelby Star, adding that he'd officially annouce his decision Monday afternoon. "I just had to be obedient to go ahead and do that. It's something internal that I knew I had to do it now. I think our country is now in a very critical stage in its life. There are things I've learned over the years that I think could help our state, as well as our country, during this time."

Alexander is the latest entrant into a crowded primary field, and starts out at a deficit both in organization and name identification to his opponents. - The Hill, 1/13/14

So expect to see some serious mudslinging in the primary.  Meanwhile, Senator Kay hagan's (D. NC) numbers aren't in great shape:
39% of voters in the state say they approve of the job Hagan is doing to 49% who disapprove. She has 1 or 2 point deficits against each of her potential GOP foes. She's down by 1 to Heather Grant (42/41) and Thom Tillis (43/42), and trails by 2 against the rest of the field (43/41 against Greg Brannon and Mark Harris, 44/42 against Bill Flynn.)

Hagan's main issue is that with independents she has a 30/56 approval rating and trails all of her opponents by double digits. Unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act seems to be driving much of her trouble. Only 38% of voters in the state overall support it to 48% who are opposed, and independents are more against it than the overall electorate at 31/57. 61% of voters think its implementation has been unsuccessful to 32% who deem it a success. Those numbers have actually been slowly moving in a positive direction for Democrats though. The percentage of voters rating it unsuccessful has declined from 69% in November to 65% in December to the new 61% mark. - PPP, 1/14/14

So this race is far from over but it's looking like one of the bigger toss up races this year.  Hagan can still beat Tillis or the GOP but she might need a new topic to defeat them with.  unemployment benefits would be a good topic:


U.S. Senator Kay Hagan talks with Catawba County residents during her "Conversations with Kay" statewide series at Catawba Valley Community College&#x27;s East Campus on Wednesday..Jeremy Detter/HICKORY DAILY RECORD
The state legislature's decision to reduce benefits now has become a central issue in what is likely to be one of the mostly hotly contested U.S. Senate races in the country in 2014, one in which the GOP is looking to unseat incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan.

Hagan secured a provision in the White House-endorsed legislation to restore unemployment benefits for three months under consideration in the Senate that would make residents in her state eligible for long-term benefits by permitting North Carolina to negotiate an agreement with the Department of Labor.

And the first-term senator, who saw her polling numbers dip in the aftermath of the Obama administration's bungled Affordable Care Act roll-out, has gone on the offensive on the unemployment insurance issue. She is blaming North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and his fellow Republicans for supporting the reduction that has led to approximately 170,000 unemployed workers in the state missing out on benefits. Tillis also happens to the front-runner in the GOP primary to take on Hagan in November.

"This irresponsible and cold-hearted action by the General Assembly has been devastating to the thousands of individuals and families who are really struggling to make ends meet while looking for jobs," Hagan told reporters, adding that the reduction in unemployment benefits has led to $780 million being taken out of the state's economy.

Tillis and state Sen. Phil Berger, the top Republican in the North Carolina legislature, have countered that it's Hagan who dropped the ball by failing to win an exemption from federal requirements as four other states - Arkansas, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island -- had done during unemployment benefit extension negotiations in February 2012.

Hagan, however, says that when Tillis and Berger called on her to push for a waiver in December 2012, North Carolina hadn't yet passed its law, making it impossible for Congress to consider what at the time was "hypothetical" state legislation. - The Detroit Free Press, 1/14/14

If you would like to get involved with hagan's campaign, you can do so here:

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Originally posted to pdc on Tue Jan 14, 2014 at 01:32 PM PST.

Also republished by North Carolina BLUE, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and DKos Asheville.

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