Thomas Mills nominates North Carolina:
Tillis won the most expensive U.S. Senate race in history; the campaigns and outside groups spent more than $100 million on the contest. More than 100,000 political ads ran in North Carolina this election cycle, the most of any Senate race. And the state is relatively evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and independent voters.
In other words, North Carolina is the country’s most competitive state. But 2014 might have been just a preview of what’s to come. In 2016, besides GOP Senator Richard Burr’s reelection bid, the state will have competitive gubernatorial and presidential contests.
How the might 2016 play out?
North Carolina had the second-closest presidential race in both 2008 and 2012—Democrats won the former, Republicans the latter. 2016 will be a tie-breaker of sorts, a test of the Democratic coalition’s strength. Republicans believe that Democrats stayed competitive because of an African-American turnout that might not return without Obama on the ticket. Democrats believe that changing demographics in the state are turning it bluer each election cycle.
Jason Zengerle analyzes Thom Tillis’s defeat of Kay Hagan:
Tillis’s most important move might have been in the race’s final days, when he went positive. After months of both candidates (and the outside groups supporting them) demonizing each other in 30-second TV spots—over 100,000 of which aired in the state—Tillis’s final ad of the race was this one which, while still tying Hagan to Obama, did so in a less slashing fashion and actually put forward an affirmative case for Tillis. …
For a long time, it looked like the North Carolina Senate race would hinge on whether voters were more angry at Raleigh or Washington when they finally went to the polls. If it was the former, Hagan would win; if it was the latter, Tillis. Obviously, the national climate was such that it may have been impossible for any Democrat to win in North Carolina this year. But anger wasn’t the whole story, and, in the end, Tillis gave North Carolina voters just enough of a reason to vote for—rather than against—someone that it made a difference.
(Screenshot from the Upshot’s detailed Senate maps.)