By most accounts, next year's US Senate race in North Carolina will be a squeaker. With Republican hopes of regaining a majority in Washington hinging on their ability to unseat Kay Hagan, right wing special interest groups are already in high gear.
The odds-on favorite to win the Republican primary, of course, is Thom Tillis, who famously urged the GOP base to embrace his divide-and-conquer strategy. Unfortunately for him, poor Thom has to run on his miserable record as Speaker of the NC House, which will not be a pretty sight. While the GOP establishment is doubling down on Tillis as the man who can take Hagan out, Tea Party purists have pinned their hopes on Mark Harris, a war-mongering Christian who hates gays and women. Go figure.
No matter which man wins in the GOP primary, the general election will stir up conservative special interests in an orgy of campaign contributions. ALEC will be front and center, with the NRA, the North Carolina Family Policy Council, and other groups of right wing fanatics bringing up the rear. Records will be broken on per-vote spending, and North Carolina voters will be bone-weary from all campaign advertising, media coverage, and drama.
Pollsters and pundits alike agree this race will be the one to watch. Kay really has her work cut out, they say, and based on historical patterns of voter turnout, the race looks like a toss-up.
These analyses make sense as far as they go, but they may not go far enough. Because on the other side of the political aisle is a single, motivating issue that is large enough and urgent enough to disrupt historical patterns of contributions and turnout: Abortion rights.
Women of all ages, incomes, and political persuasions are already up in arms, and by next November, there will be a massive army of abortion-rights advocates supporting Kay's reelection. One in three American women have had an abortion, and a clear majority want abortion to continue to be safe and legal. Organizations that support a woman's right to make her own reproductive choices will be leading the charge in 2014, and while the campaign will be brutal, there's little doubt about the outcome.
Thom Tillis and Mark Harris are fanatical opponents of abortion. Their opposition to the Affordable Care Act strikes at the heart of women's health. In an election that will turn on women's issues, there is no amount of lipstick they can put on their misogynist pigs.
In many ways, the US Senate campaign will be a showdown between reactionary organizations like the NRA and women's rights groups like Planned Parenthood and Lillian's List. You'd have to be a sucker to bet against women.