Did Kay Hagan finally admit to a charge that the North Carolina GOP has been lobbing at the incumbent Democrat for weeks — or did she offer an explanation? The local ABC affiliate believes that Hagan’s admission in a post-debate press conference might be a “game changer” in the Senate race. During that presser, Hagan confirmed that she indeed did miss at least one meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee to attend a fundraiser:

Fox’s Boston affiliate offered up Hagan’s defense:

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Hagan responded in the post-debate session with reporters to the issue brought up by her opposition in a commercial accusing the Senator of skipping meetings of the Senate Armed Services Committee. During the press conference, Hagan was asked if she had missed a meeting to do fundraising.

Hagan said, “There was one and what had happened at that hearing, it was scheduled early in the day, and then votes were scheduled, and that hearing then had to be postponed later that day, so yes, I did miss that one, but you know what? Speaker Tillis’ hometown newspaper called on him to resign, because he missed so many days in the legislature because he was out fundraising.”

The Tillis campaign has tried to develop this as a narrative in the race, and perhaps it might work, but it looks like weak sauce from outside of North Carolina. Politicians in both parties attend lots of fundraisers, incumbents and challengers alike, and it’s not as if many legislators at any level have perfect attendance records in votes or committee hearings. Tillis’ own record attests to that, as the Hagan camp has begun to note and Hagan herself reminded reporters last night. In wartime, the Armed Services Committee is a bigger deal, but if Hagan has only missed a few meetings (or one, as she claimed) for a fundraiser, don’t expect too many voters to be convinced that this is evidence of a dereliction of duty.

Time Magazine reports that Tillis did a much better job in hammering a point that will get North Carolina voters motivated:

Thom Tillis, the Republican senate candidate in North Carolina, kept to a simple message about his opponent Sen. Kay Hagan in the contest’s second debate Tuesday: “A vote for Senator Hagan is a vote for President Obama’s failed policies,” Tillis said.

With the trap set, Sen. Kay Hagan seemed to stumble into it. Asked to name an instance where she regretted a Congressional vote, after Tillis noted the Democrat has voted with Obama “96% of the time,” Hagan failed to come up with one. Tillis said this was proof that she was “proud” of voting with the President.

That’s a better line of attack than committee hearing attendance, and less fraught with potential for blowback. Tillis should keep pressing that point and ask North Carolina whether their state should act as a rubber stamp for Obama’s policies — which he has helpfully confirmed are the real ballot issues in the midterms.