Raleigh – North Carolina Republicans are devolving into a civil war. Party strategists are growingly worried about Senator Tillis’ weakness in the state, and now prominent outside groups are leaking polls to encourage another challenger to join the primary, a move “rooted in a growing belief that Tillis is vulnerable — both in the primary and general elections.”
Already, national and state Republicans have turned on each other, with the former forcing a top pollster to President Trump to “cut ties” with Tillis primary challenger Garland Tucker. National Republicans have not exactly hidden how weak they believe Senator Tillis is, sending Vice President Pence to “rescue” him and announcing plans to “carpet bomb” his primary opponent.
But it’s more than just a damaging Senate primary threatening to “wreak havoc on the party’s prospects” that is causing Republicans to panic. There is “considerable angst about a turmoil-wracked North Carolina Republican Party, whose chairman was recently indicted in a corruption case.” Others “in the party have grown concerned about the governor’s race, where GOP strategists have lamented about a field of lackluster candidates.”
Politico: Return of the Republican civil war?
By Alex Isenstadt and James Arkin
May 23, 2019
- A prominent conservative group is trying to lure a staunch ally of President Donald Trump into a primary race against Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, threatening to inflame intra-party tensions in a state crucial to the party’s 2020 strategy.
- The Club for Growth is attempting to nudge Rep. Mark Walker, a third-term evangelical pastor, into the 2020 Senate race. This week, it completed a poll suggesting that Tillis would be vulnerable to a challenge from the right — particularly against Walker.
- The Club for Growth said its move was rooted in a growing belief that Tillis is vulnerable — both in the primary and general elections.
- The development threatens to further shake up a contest that’s already been upended by the entrance of one primary challenger. Garland Tucker, a former investment company executive who launched his campaign earlier this month, has pledged to spend $1 million of his own money and is accusing Tillis of being insufficiently supportive of the president.
- Senior Republicans are deeply concerned that a disruptive primary in the state could wreak havoc on the party’s prospects, including Trump’s. Already, there is considerable angst about a turmoil-wracked North Carolina Republican Party, whose chairman was recently indicted in a corruption case to which Walker was tied, though the congressman was not charged and said he cooperated with the investigation. And some in the party have grown concerned about the governor’s race, where GOP strategists have lamented about a field of lackluster candidates.
- Club for Growth officials contend that Tillis’s past differences with the White House have imperiled him in a state where the president has vast support among Republicans. Last year, the senator came under fire from fellow Republicans for co-sponsoring legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. Earlier this year, Tillis wrote a Washington Post op-ed in which he came out against the president’s national emergency declaration — before ultimately voting in support of it.
- According to the poll, just 45 percent of Republican voters expressed a favorable view of Tillis, and only 17 percent said they would vote to re-nominate the senator regardless of who he faced in a primary. The survey, which was conducted by the firm WPA Intelligence, also found that Tillis’ support is mired in the low 40s in prospective primary matchups.
- The White House has yet to endorse the incumbent, though last week the president met with Tillis.
- Next year’s North Carolina contest has become an early focal point for Republicans. Tillis is one of at least a half-dozen endangered incumbents the party is trying to protect in its effort to maintain the Senate majority after the 2020 elections.
- National Republicans have moved aggressively in recent weeks to target Tucker — an indication of how seriously they are taking any threats to Tillis.