Hagan, Tillis spar over gay marriage, Ebola

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Sen. Kay HaganKay HaganPhoto finish predicted for Trump, Clinton in North Carolina Are Senate Republicans facing an election wipeout? Clinton's lead in NC elevates Senate race MORE (D-N.C.) stayed on the attack in her second debate with North Carolina Speaker Thom TillisThom R. TillisOvernight Healthcare: Key ObamaCare plan to see steep rate hike GOP: Obama ‘in denial’ about healthcare law failures GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE (R), while Tillis focused largely on jobs and tied Hagan to President Obama at every opportunity.

While Hagan remains a top target for Republicans, she's also proven to be one of Democrats' most resilient incumbents, leading Tillis by consistent single-digit margins in most public polling, despite the red lean of the state.

And though Tillis homed in on some of his campaign's main lines of attack against Hagan, he left himself vulnerable on a number of issues and likely didn't deliver the kind of game-changing blow that could reverse the course of the race.

Hagan jabbed Tillis as "spineless" on tackling the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, accused him of using "scare tactics" in his comments addressing the Ebola outbreak and charged that "100 percent of the time, Speaker Tillis's policies have hurt North Carolina."

She also repeatedly suggested Tillis was dodging questions and pressed him to answer to moderator at various points.

Tillis frequently paraphrased President Obama's recent declaration that "these policies are on the ballot this fall," accusing Hagan of favoring job-killing regulations and simply "spending more money," while he said he believed government should "get out of the way" to allow the economy to flourish.

And he mentioned the senator's absences from Armed Service committee hearings multiple times, though he botched which committee she serves on in trying to ask her a direct question about it.

Tillis slammed ObamaCare as "one of the most disastrous regulatory frameworks that has ever been passed in the history of the United States," but said he agrees with the planks that ensure coverage for those with preexisting conditions and allow Americans 26 and under to get covered on their parents' plans.

He said the law needs to be fully repealed, but only offered to "work across the aisle" to get those favorable planks passed if elected.

One of the Republican's more fiery attacks on Obama came when addressing the Supreme Court's recent decision not to take up a gay marriage case, effectively legalizing gay marriage in a number of states and prompting challenges to existing state bans, including North Carolina's.

Tillis on Monday said he would "formally defend" North Carolina's gay marriage ban and defended that decision Tuesday night, saying it was approved by voters in 2012 and that it's his "responsibility to defend the laws of the state. He said he hopes the case goes to the Supreme Court, and also slammed Obama for his judicial appointments.

"I also think we're in a dangerous time in this country when the president has appointed liberal activist judges — and Senator Hagan has confirmed them — that are literally trying to legislate from the bench," he said.

Hagan said she supports gay marriage and accused Tillis of spending taxpayer dollars to defend the state's ban.

But the Democrat found some points of agreement with Tillis. She said unaccompanied immigrant children who've crossed the southern border should go through the legal system, rather than be given blanket amnesty, and though some will be awarded asylum, "I think a large number of them will be sent home to their parents."

She also said a travel ban "could be one part of a broad range" of options to tackle the Ebola outbreak.

Tillis was the first Senate candidate in the nation to come out in favor of a travel ban, and during the debate said the current handling of Ebola is "another failure like the failure [on] ISIS, and a number of other policy issues where our safety and security is at risk."

"Senator Hagan needs to step up and address these problems," he added.

But both delivered their opposing parties lines of attack likely to reemerge in the coming weeks of the race.

Democrats pounced when Tillis admitted, when asked where he'd oppose GOP leadership, that "at this point, it's kinda hard to say because [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] hasn't allowed anything to be passed."

Hagan listed the Keystone pipeline, trade deals and a Democratic budget that she said had too deep cuts to military funding as issues on which she breaks with her party.

And in responding to a question from Hagan on why he opposes equal pay, Tillis said government should "enforce the law that's on the books, versus some of the campaign gimmicks that are going to put more regulations on businesses and make it even more difficult."

Republicans hammered Hagan, meanwhile, for stammering and then dodging when Tillis asked her to name one of Obama's policies that she regrets supporting.

—This post was updated at 9:58 p.m.