SPOTLIGHT

Two Crossroads Diverged

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) comes out from the weekly policy luncheon October 4, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
April 1, 2014, 7:40 a.m.

Is this the start of a kinder, gentler Amer­ic­an Cross­roads? The GOP su­per PAC’s new North Car­o­lina ad, un­veiled Tues­day, is yet an­oth­er pos­it­ive mes­sage aimed at boost­ing the de-facto es­tab­lish­ment primary can­did­ate, Thom Tillis (R) — a week after Cross­roads ran a smi­ley-faced spot for Dan Sul­li­van (R) in Alaska. The ads sug­gest the Karl Rove-backed group is try­ing a softer ap­proach to its oft-stated mis­sion of mak­ing sure the party avoids nom­in­ees who could cost it Sen­ate seats.

— The ad is as not­able for what’s not in­cluded (cri­ti­cisms of Tillis’s con­ser­vat­ive op­pon­ents) as what is. The think­ing seems to be that heavy-handed at­tacks are ripe to eli­cit back­lash from con­ser­vat­ive act­iv­ists, the type of re­ac­tion that could cost votes for Tillis or Sul­li­van. The vast ma­jor­ity of su­per PAC ads are neg­at­ive, but Cross­roads is tread­ing lightly even while get­ting in­volved in primar­ies.

— No­tice how cal­ib­rated the Tar Heel State spot is for a Re­pub­lic­an audi­ence: It at­tacks Sen. Kay Hagan (D) and Pres­id­ent Obama first, as if to es­tab­lish con­ser­vat­ive bona fides, and men­tions voter ID twice. Don’t ex­pect Re­pub­lic­ans to tout the state’s new vot­ing rules ag­gress­ively when the gen­er­al elec­tion rolls around, for fear of mo­tiv­at­ing Hagan’s lib­er­al base.

— The re­por­ted mil­lion-dol­lar buy for Cross­roads high­lights the group’s dra­mat­ic­ally scaled back am­bi­tion for this year’s Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies — just a year ago its lead­ers were beat­ing their chests about ag­gress­ively play­ing in in­tra-party battles. (Re­mem­ber the Con­ser­vat­ive Vic­tory Pro­ject?) But North Car­o­lina in­siders say the ad is a wel­come boost to­ward Tillis’s goal of reach­ing 40% of the vote in May and avoid­ing a primary run-off. Cross­roads might be di­min­ished, but it can still be an es­sen­tial ally to some Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates.

Where Cross­roads goes from here re­mains to be seen — of­fi­cials there de­clined to say what, if any, Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies it would spend money in next. If Cross­roads does in­volve it­self in, say, Geor­gia or Iowa, however, ex­pect not a clenched fist to op­pon­ents, but an ex­ten­ded hand to its al­lies.
— Alex Roarty

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