Big names help GOP in North Carolina Senate race

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From Charlotte, North Carolina

Republicans have called in some famous names to help a prized GOP recruit in one of the nation’s tightest races for U.S. Senate, as North Carolina has become a supercharged national battleground in the mid-2014 elections.

“I think it’s going great,” said Republican Thom Tillis of his race to unseat Sen. Kay Hagan, as the Republican nominee exuded quiet confidence that his bid for U.S. Senate is moving in the right direction.

“We’ve got momentum, we’ve closed the gap and we’re moving ahead,” Tillis told me after an event with veterans in Charlotte.

In tow with Tillis on Tuesday were two U.S. Senators, John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as they argued to voters in the Charlotte area that it was time to push Tillis from the job of State House Speaker and into the United States Senate.

“Thom would be a good addition to the team,” said Graham.

“I came here for a second time because I believe in this guy,” McCain said of Tillis.

Before Tillis’ final event was even over, McCain headed for the airport; he was flying next to Iowa to stump for Republican Senate hopeful Joni Ernst in the Hawkeye State.

On Wednesday, Tillis will be joined by Mitt Romney; while McCain lost North Carolina in 2008 to Barack Obama, Romney pulled the Tar Heel State back into the GOP fold in the 2012 election.

Democrats stress get out the vote effort

While Tillis brings in big names like Romney and McCain, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) has been doing the same; last weekend, Hillary Clinton headlined a big rally for Hagan, imploring voters to return the Democrat to the U.S. Senate.

While Tillis was in Salisbury and Charlotte on Tuesday, Hagan was working the far western areas of North Carolina, urging voters to get out to vote by next Tuesday.

“We’ve got a great voter turnout going across the state,” Hagan said at a stop in Hendersonville. She began the day with an event in Asheville.

The latest numbers on early voting and absentee ballots in North Carolina seem to show an edge for Democrats, as their early turnout numbers are above two years ago, while Republicans are lagging behind.

A check of the numbers shows the top five counties in terms of early/absentee turnout at this point are all counties that went for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012 – Mecklenburg (Charlotte), Wake (Raleigh), Guilford (Greensboro), Buncombe (Asheville) and Durham County (Durham).

When I asked Tillis about that, the State House Speaker showed off a political poker face, and said he wasn’t worried.

“If you take a look at absentees and early voting, they’re pretty much going along with historical trends,” Tillis said.

“We’ve got a great ground game,” the North Carolina Republican told me.

We’ll find out if the GOP is right about that in just six days.