October 29, 2019/Press

NEW REPORT: Tillis’ Primary “A Lot More Competitive” as GOP Voters Say It’s “Too Late” for Him to Earn Their Vote

Raleigh – Senator Tillis’ expensive, divisive Republican primary “is a lot more competitive than a lot of folks in Washington know” as more Republican voters voice that it’s “too late” for Senator Tillis to earn their vote, according to fresh insights from local North Carolina Republican Party elected officials and Republican voters detailed in new report from the Wall Street Journal.

Tillis, who’s now “in lockstep” with the president although “he hasn’t always been,” has been met with “moans and groans” from his own party activists. One Republican voter, who said it’s “too late” for Tillis to earn her vote, even said of him:

“A snake don’t turn into a puppy just because he puts a flea collar on.”

The report comes after a devastating start to his Republican primary for Tillis:

  • Republican voters publicly say they “don’t like him,” calling him “wishy-washy” and “a fair-weather friend,” and that “I won’t be voting for him.”
  • He’s stuck spending heavily to fight his divisive GOP primary after an “underwhelming” fundraising quarter.

On top of that, nonpartisan analysts have shifted the race in Democrats direction to “toss up.”


Wall Street Journal: As Tillis Faces Primary Fight, Earlier Breaks With Trump Are a Focus
By Valerie Bauerlein
October 28, 2019

Key Points:

  • Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is in lockstep with President Trump these days on everything from impeachment to Syria. But he hasn’t always been.
  • That discrepancy is dominating the first-term senator’s bid for re-election next year, as he faces a conservative challenger in a GOP primary in which rural Trump loyalists hold sway.
  • He has since thrown his support completely behind Mr. Trump, decrying what he called the “baseless impeachment circus” and adopting the slogan of “Trump & Tillis: Keeping America Great.”
  • That earlier daylight between Mr. Tillis and Mr. Trump has given an opening to his opponent in next March’s primary, businessman Garland Tucker.
  • Mr. Tucker got into the race after the senator wrote a February op-ed opposing Mr. Trump’s plan to fund the border wall by a national-emergency declaration. And even though Mr. Tillis reversed course, Mr. Tucker is running campaign ads characterizing him as a flip-flopper.
  • “If I were to take a dipstick check of the state right now, this race is a lot more competitive than a lot of folks in Washington know,” said Jim Womack, GOP chairman in rural Lee County. “If the president went back to a neutral stance, Tillis is toast.”
  • Mr. Tillis is running $2 million in ads defending his Trump bona fides, including a new ad featuring a pug in a tie, saying Mr. Tucker “lies like a dog,” particularly about Mr. Tillis’s record on a pathway to citizenship for immigrants.
  • Mr. Tillis is ranked among the most vulnerable Senate incumbents in 2020. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report recently changed the race’s rating to “lean Republican” from “likely Republican,” citing the primary as a factor.
  • Cook Political analyst Jennifer Duffy said Mr. Tillis must walk a fine line between being conservative enough for Republicans in a primary and remaining moderate enough for Democrats in a general election. “As a result, he doesn’t seem to please either side,” she said.
  • Terri Gore, who describes herself as “Trump first, Republican second,” was among those booing. Ms. Gore, a registered nurse from Whiteville, said she is happy to see Mr. Tillis defend the president but that it is too late to earn her vote. “A snake don’t turn into a puppy just because he puts a flea collar on,” she said.

Read the full article online here.