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Since the GOP took over both North Carolina’s state house and governorship for the first time in more than a century, the state has become a flashpoint, with extremist policies being put into place one after the other, almost as if conservatives were punishing the state for voting for President Obama in 2008.

The right-wing mania seems to have peaked, with abortion laws being injected into any legislation Republicans could get their hands on and the nation’s worst, most blatant voter suppression law.

Republican governor Pat McCrory has said he will sign the new women’s health restrictions — despite a campaign promise not to — and the voting law, though he hasn’t actually read it.

North Carolinians have been gathering every week for Moral Mondays at the state capitol, hoping their protests and the hundreds of resulting arrests will draw attention to the extremism coming out of the quintessential swing state.

But if people aren’t paying attention to North Carolina politics now, they will be, as the battle for the U.S. Senate in 2014 heats up and Democratic senator Kay Hagan defends her seat.

“North Carolina is the closest thing to the tipping point state in the Senate battle,” the New York TimesNate Silver recently wrote.

Silver added, “Although North Carolina is increasingly purple in presidential election years, the coalition of African-Americans and college-aged voters that Democrats depend upon to win races in the state is less likely to turn out for midterm elections.”

And Republicans are well aware of this.

“By all accounts, there is no path to having a Republican majority leader that doesn’t lead through North Carolina,” Thom Tillis, the state House speaker and leading Republican Senate candidate, told the Washington Examiner.

While laws designed to suppress Democratic votes will certainly help Republicans, the controversies invoked by their policies are drawing the attention of the state’s growing unaffiliated voters and the nation.

Some have called North Carolina the “new Wisconsin,” which sounds promising for Republicans who were able to help Governor Scott Walker survive a recall. However, Democrats successfully took back the Senate in those recalls for a brief time, and only lost it again in 2012 due to gerrymandering.

You can’t gerrymander a whole state, and if there is a backlash against the GOP in North Carolina, it could cost Republicans the U.S. Senate.

Photo: taberandrew via Flickr.com

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