October 14, 2019/Press

NEW: NC Senate Race Now “Toss Up” As Yet Another Nonpartisan Election Analyst Moves Race Rating in Democrats’ Direction

Raleigh – Yet another nonpartisan election analyst has moved the North Carolina Senate race in Democrats’ direction, saying the race is now a “Toss Up” because in part of Senator Tillis’ “image problem” with voters of all political backgrounds.

The rating change in Democrats’ direction is the third in less than a month. Earlier this month, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball moved the race to “Toss Up,” writing that Senator Tillis is “sweating” his GOP primary. Late last month, Cook Political moved the race in Democrats direction because of Senator Tillis’ weakness with voters and “self-inflicted wounds,” noting that “voters of all ideological stripes simply don’t trust Tillis.

Senator Tillis’ “image problem” – that’s he’s a weak politician who looks out for his reelection chances before his constituents – isn’t getting any better. In the last week alone:

  • He flip flopped on the administration’s Syria policy, weakly stating that he’s giving Trump the “benefit of the doubt” after expressing concerns last year against a move to “prematurely withdraw” (even as other GOP Senators including fellow NC Senator Richard Burr speak out).
  • Tillis quietly forced an outlet to delete any mention of him “breaking with” President Trump. “The spine, it bends,” one columnist wrote.

Inside Elections: 2020 Senate Overview (Oct. 11, 2019): North Carolina
October 11, 2019

Key Points: 

  • It’s not even Fall yet, but Republicans have already spent a few million dollars on the race. Garland Tucker, the retired CEO of Triangle Capital Corporation, has spent nearly $1 million on cable in his bid for the GOP nomination. In response, Tillis has spent (or reserved) more than $2 million for television ads through next year’s primary.
  • …[Tillis] has an image problem that he’ll need to solve before the primary and general elections.
  • And while Tillis has overperformed in parts of Mecklenburg County in the past, the results of the state’s 9th District redo election in September indicated a growing suburban/rural divide that could be difficult for Republicans to overcome in 2020.
  • But even if that weren’t the case, a generic, well-funded Democrat should be competitive against Tillis.  According to Inside Elections’ Baseline calculation, North Carolina is one of the most narrowly divided states in the country: Republicans have a 1-point advantage over Democrats.
  • And while Tillis could benefit from the slight GOP historical advantage and Trump turning out the base, Democrats could benefit from favorable trends in the suburbs. We’re changing the rating from Tilt Republican to Toss-Up.