Tillis Says Hagan's Closeness to Obama Led to Incumbent's Defeat

During the yearlong campaign, Tillis and his allies harshly criticized Hagan for voting for Obama's legislative agenda in the Senate 96 percent of the time. Hagan kept her distance from Obama for most of the campaign.

The president supported Hagan in a radio ad on Monday, the last day before Election Day.

Eamon said he couldn't blame Hagan for her strategy of not campaigning with Obama in a state that he won in 2008 and lost in 2012 and where polls suggest that he is unpopular with many residents.

“Hagan did what was prudent for her,” Eamon said.

On another front, Haugh, the Libertarian, likely drew votes away from both Tillis and Hagan, Eamon said. Late in the campaign, a GOP adviser to Tillis described Haugh as a “liberal libertarian” because of his opposition to all wars and support of legalization of marijuana, as well as his 11th-hour admission to smoking marijuana.

Eamon said that Haugh's presence in the race didn't make any real difference to the outcome. If the race was just a contest between Tillis and Hagan without Haugh’s presence, Tillis still likely would have won, Eamon said.

Late Tuesday night and early Wednesday, conservative and liberal groups weighed in on Tillis' victory.

Vernon Robinson, a former Republican city councilman in Winston-Salem and campaign director for the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, said in a statement that the Carson committee helped Tillis win in North Carolina.

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, is considering running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. The Ben Carson Committee spent $312,000 on radio ads in North Carolina that targeted black voters and supported Tillis on issues such as abortion, jobs and energy, Robinson said.

“Thank to the efforts of the Draft Ben Carson President Committee, Thom Tillis is now a U.S. Senator-elect, an important step towards taking the country back,” Robinson said. “Dr. Carson has said a Republican-controlled Senate would encourage him to make a run for president. Key support among minorities in North Carolina shows Dr. Carson that North Carolinians, and the American people, will support principled candidates."

“The decision to support Tillis for U.S. Senate is part of a single focused strategy to regain America by encouraging Dr. Carson to run for president,” Robinson said.

Americans for Prosperity, an organization that spent millions on attack ads against Hagan, also took credit for Tillis' victory.

“The voters have answered loud and clear,” said Donald Bryson, the organization's state director. “They are done with Sen. Kay Hagan and President Obama's failing agenda for North Carolina.”

Bryson said that Hagan was a rubber stamp for Obama's agenda.

“North Carolina has a long history of rejecting big government policies,” Bryson said. “That Tar Heel tradition held true on Tuesday.”

However, the Population Action Fund, an organization that supported Hagan, bemoaned Tillis' victory.

“Kay Hagan's defeat tonight is a loss for the people of North Carolina, the United States, and indeed the vulnerable people, especially women and children, around the world,” John Seager, the fund's president, said in a statement.

“The people of North Carolina will miss her steadfast support of improving the quality of life for working families across the state,” Seager said. “From her advocacy for strong schools to her leadership in advancing a living wage, she never shied from fighting for families instead of special interests.”