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When President Barack Obama traveled to North Carolina to discuss the economy on Wednesday afternoon, the Tar Heel State’s top elected Democrat was conspicuous by her absence.

Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), who faces a difficult re-election battle in November, chose not to join the president at his event in Raleigh. According to Hagan’s office, she was busy with her day job — the Senate voted on a continuing resolution funding the government on Wednesday, among other business.

Although Hagan did not appear with President Obama at the event, Republicans still didn’t waste the opportunity to tie the first-term senator to the president.

“Kay Hagan can run from her record of voting with President Obama 96 percent of the time, but she cannot hide,” RNC spokesman Michael Short said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Americans for Prosperity — a 501(c)(4) “dark money” group backed by billionaire Republicans Charles and David Koch — released an ad using almost exactly the same language to attack Senator Hagan for skipping the event.

The right also received an assist from CNN’s Briana Keilar, who suggested to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney that Hagan’s decision to stay in Washington is “the congressional equivalent of ‘I can’t go, I’m washing my hair.'” (Carney, predictably, disagreed, reminding Keilar that “voting on, potentially, budget resolutions, or omnibus resolutions, or extending unemployment insurance” may have some merit.)

It’s not hard to understand why Republicans are eager to tie Hagan to the president, and highlight her decision to keep her distance from him in her home state. President Obama has become deeply unpopular in North Carolina; according to a survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, just 40 percent of North Carolinians now approve of the president’s job performance, with 54 percent disapproving. Hagan does not fare much better; PPP finds her approval rating at 39 percent, with 49 percent disapproving. Additionally, the poll finds her in a virtual deadlock with each of her Republican opponents (Thom Tillis, Greg Brannon, Bill Flynn, Heather Grant, and Mark Harris).

North Carolina is crucial to Republican hopes of winning a Senate majority in 2014; if Hagan wins re-election, then the GOP would likely have to sweep vulnerable Democratic incumbents in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska to gain the net six seats it needs to take control of the upper chamber.

Photo by Third Way via Flickr

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