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NC GOP leaders say Hagan trying to distance herself from Obama

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N.C. Republican Party chair Claude Pope speaks at a press conference at the GOP headquarters in Raleigh. (Bianca Spinosa, WNCN) N.C. Republican Party chair Claude Pope speaks at a press conference at the GOP headquarters in Raleigh. (Bianca Spinosa, WNCN)
RALEIGH, N.C. -

State Republican leaders say President Barack Obama's visit to North Carolina Wednesday is a bid to get Sen. Kay Hagan re-elected, yet the freshman senator doesn't want anything to do with the president.

A spokesman for Hagan, D-NC, said she will not be in attendance when Obama speaks Wednesday afternoon at North Carolina State University.

"She's in session. She's going to be in Washington, D.C., doing her job," spokesman Chris Hayden said.

But N.C. Republican Party chair Claude Pope says Hagan's absence is just as much a political move as the president's visit the Old North State.

"Obama and the liberal Democrats cannot afford to lose Kay Hagan," Pope said Wednesday during a morning press conference. "She is their rubberstamp in Washington."

Hagan is up for re-election this year, and Pope said the president's waning popularity in North Carolina is the reason she will not accompany Obama during his visit.

"It's not surprising then that Kay Hagan is the one person who did not want President Obama to be here today," Pope said. "The last thing Kay Hagan and her campaign consultants need right now are more photos of her standing next to the president."

Hagan's campaign communications director responded to the claims, calling them "just another political attack from a shadowy outside group that has no accountability to North Carolinians." Sadie Weiner reasserted that Hagan was remaining in D.C. to do "the job she was elected to do in the Senate."

"Just like she's always been, Kay is focused on doing her job today, which includes cleaning up the unemployment insurance mess Thom Tillis created in Raleigh, voting on a bill to avoid a government shutdown and attending an Armed Services Committee briefing on Iraq and Syria," Wiener said.

David McLennan, chair of the political science department at William Peace University, echoed Pope's statement, saying the senator likely wants to distance herself from a president with dwindling approval ratings in an election year.

"I think what she's hoping is President Obama will come to North Carolina and get the Democrats revved up again," McLennan said, "but still not have to share the stage with him and be, potentially, attacked for it."

Among the hot-button topics this election season will be the bumpy implementation of the Affordable Care Act, for which Hagan voted in favor. Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly, in particular, have been hostile to the federal health care overhaul for years.

"She even said that if she had to do it over again on Obamacare, she would vote for it again," Pope said. "Yet, despite her unwavering support for Obama and Obamacare, Kay Hagan recently refused to say whether or not she still approves of Obama's job performance."

Pope continued, "Kay Hagan doesn't want held accountable for casting the deciding vote for Obamacare. She doesn't want to be held accountable for repeatedly lying to North Carolinians about Obamacare on no fewer than 24 occasions."

On Monday, Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tillis announced the creation of a legislative panel to review the 2010 law. They say they want to know the real-world results of the law's mandates upon businesses and families, some of whom say they've lost coverage or seen higher premiums.

The GOP-led legislature in 2011 directed the state to join a legal challenge to the federal law, but then-Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed the bill.

Last year, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law blocking Medicaid expansion and a state-run online health marketplace allowed by the law.

This is Obama's first visit to N.C. State since September 2011. Back then, Obama urged Congress to pass a jobs bill.

That bill ultimately did not pass, but the economy has improved. North Carolina's unemployment rate was stuck at 10.7 percent that month. Most recent data for November 2013 has it down to 7.4 percent.

But Pope said Democrats have been no help in improving the economy and that state Republicans deserve the credit.

"I hope during his short visit here, President Obama will get a chance to see the amazing successes North Carolina is experiencing -- in spite of the failed policies of his administration," Pope said. "President Obama and Kay Hagan have had over five years to turn our country around. Their big government policies of higher taxes, burdensome regulations and a disastrous health care overhaul have all been abject failures.

"In contrast, over the last year, North Carolina has taken a different path. Governor McCrory and the General Assembly have pursued an aggressive pro-growth, pro-business agenda that will create more jobs and opportunities for North Carolinians for the foreseeable future."

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