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The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control

The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control
© Greg Nash

Welcome to The Hill's Campaign Report, your daily rundown on all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races. Did someone forward this to you? Click here to subscribe.

We're Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley. Here's what we're watching today on the campaign trail. 

 

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LEADING THE DAY:

In the race for control of the Senate, there are signs that one state in particular is emerging as the key to the majority: North Carolina.

Over the past week, the two top Republican and Democratic super PACs focusing on Senate campaigns have booked nearly $50 million in fall ad reservations in North Carolina – nearly twice as much as the combined $25.7 million the two groups spent in Iowa, the state with the second highest investment.

The state is set for a general election match-up between Republican Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate hears from Biden's high-profile judicial nominees for first time Senate Democrats take aim at 'true lender' interest rate rule Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign MORE and Democrat Cal Cunningham. Campaign aides and operatives on both sides of the aisle see the race as something of a bellwether for their parties' larger political fortunes.

"It's going to be kind of the pivotal race to decide who has the majority in the Senate this fall," one state Democratic official said. "If one party does well here, then it bodes well for how they're doing nationally."

North Carolina is just one of a handful of states that make up the Senate battlefield. Republican incumbents are also fending off tough challenges in Colorado, Arizona and Maine, while only one Democrat, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), is in serious electoral danger.

But North Carolina is seen by many politicos as a true toss-up state, given its status as a presidential battleground as well as its history of high turnover in the Senate.

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"Look at the history of North Carolina. We've gone from [former Sen.] Elizabeth Dole (R) to [former Sen.] Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganBiden's gun control push poses danger for midterms The two women who could 'cancel' Trump 10 under-the-radar races to watch in November MORE (D) to Thom Tillis," former Gov. Pat McCrory (R) told The Hill. "We've had a lot of turnover in the Senate race in that seat."

Democrats see the state as increasingly in play, citing an influx of liberal-leaning suburban professionals to the Charlotte and Raleigh suburbs. Republicans, meanwhile, point to President TrumpDonald TrumpWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' More than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill McConnell says he's 'great admirer' of Liz Cheney but mum on her removal MORE's victory in the state in 2016 and relative popularity – Morning Consult polling data released in February showed his approval at 51 percent – as a sign that his presence at the top of the ballot could give Tillis a boost.

For now, there's little evidence that either Tillis or Cunningham have much of an advantage in the race. Polling data has been scarce since North Carolina held its primaries on March 3. But the most recent surveys show a dead heat between the two candidates. 

An East Carolina University poll conducted in late February found Tillis leading Cunningham by 2 points, while an NBC News/Marist poll fielded days earlier showed Cunningham ahead by 5 points.

--Max Greenwood

 

FROM THE TRAIL:

Democrats are growing concerned about an enthusiasm gap between Trump and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' Conservative group sues over prioritization of women, minorities for restaurant aid MORE following a poll that found the former vice president had less intense support than previous Democratic presidential nominees. Amie Parnes reports.

 

Lilly Ledbetter, a fierce advocate for equal pay, endorsed Biden on Tuesday, Equal Pay Day, Marty Johnson reports.

 

New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCNN's Lemon, Cuomo to host new podcast 'Hamilton,' 'Wicked' among Broadway shows reopening Sept. 14 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns MORE (D) is trying to put away rumors that he might unexpectedly join the presidential race. "No," Cuomo said, in response to a question from his brother, CNN anchor Chris CuomoChris CuomoCNN's Lemon, Cuomo to host new podcast DOJ: Arizona recount could violate civil rights laws Haaland: Santorum's Native American comments 'unfortunate' MORE.

 

PERSPECTIVES:

Damon Linker: Democrats should relax, Biden is a strong candidate

Amy Dacey: Can democracy by mail save 2020?

Lara Brown: Virtual conventions may be the answer for 2020

David Schultz: Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much

 

FROM CONGRESS AND THE STATES:

Republican Todd McMurtry is seizing on Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieOvernight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna Vaccine hesitancy among lawmakers slows return to normalcy on Capitol Hill Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program MORE's (R-Ky.) attempt to hold up a more than $2 trillion coronavirus relief package to lend momentum to his primary bid against the four-term congressman, Max Greenwood reports. Massie, who represents Kentucky's 4th District, tried to delay the relief bill on Friday as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle scrambled to get it through the House of Representatives and to Trump's desk.

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Milwaukee polling stations are closing because there aren't enough people to work them amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Journal Sentinel reports. Wisconsin's Democratic primary is expected to take place on April 7.

 

POLL WATCH: 

MORNING CONSULT – NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY

Biden: 61 percent (+1)

Sanders: 36 percent (+/-0)

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MONEY WATCH:

Two top Democratic outside groups are joining forces to help Biden in his expected general election match-up against Trump in November. Unite the Country, the super PAC supporting Biden's presidential bid, and the liberal group American Bridge said they would form a partnership to raise and spend a nine-figure amount supporting the former vice president's effort to oust Trump, Max Greenwood reports.

 

MARK YOUR CALENDARS:

(Keep in mind these dates could change because of the outbreak.)

April 7:

Wisconsin Democratic primary

 

April 10:

Alaska

 

April 17:

Wyoming

 

April 26:

Puerto Rico Democratic primary

 

April 28:

Ohio

 

ONE HOPEFUL THING:

DINNER PARTIES: The pandemic has taken a toll on all age groups, but for children across the globe, the challenges are particularly unique.

However, BBC reporter Ben Moore decided to make the best of the situation and hosted a fancy dinner party for his children, dressing up as a butler. 

"One moment madam," Moore says to his daughter before heading over to wait on his son. 

"Sir, the March 2020 vintage, would you care to try it before I pour," he said, holding a milk carton up for his son. 

BBC South News said the video on Twitter, which was posted over the weekend, now has over 600,000 views! 

You can watch the party commence here: 

For more good news be sure to check out The Hill's Selfless Acts page, where our reporters are detailing how Americans are helping each other through the coronavirus pandemic.