November 18, 2019/Press

NEW: Tillis Facing “Kiss of Death”: The “Stiffest GOP Primary Campaign” Of Any Senator in 2020 Which “Could Damage His General Election Chances”

Raleigh – Senator Tillis is facing “the stiffest GOP primary campaign” of any Senator up in 2020, a situation that “most other vulnerable incumbents have avoided” and “could damage his general election chances,” according to a new report on Tillis’ “nasty” GOP primary with Garland Tucker.

It’s a “unique plight” that is “draining Tillis of resources” as he dumps more than $2 million into a back-and-forth “ad barrage” with Tucker. While Tillis races to the right, he’s turning off independent suburban voters – a “double whammy” that’s a potential “kiss of death” for Tillis, according to one operative.

Senator Tillis is in this position because he’s a weak politician who voters can’t trust. On issue after issue, Tillis has spinelessly listed in the wind. It’s why Republican voters continue to call him “wishy-washy,” a “fair-weather friend,” and a “snake,” and why nonpartisan observers noted, “The bottom line is that voters of all ideological stripes simply don’t trust Tillis.”

Politico: Trump’s new best friend in North Carolina
By Burgess Everett
November 18, 2019

Key Points:

  • Sen. Thom Tillis began the Trump era by negotiating with Democrats on immigration and co-authoring legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. He even briefly opposed President Donald Trump’s national emergency to build a border wall.
  • But now the North Carolina Republican’s independent streak is fading. He’s deploying the president as a shield against a conservative primary challenger and he’s hugging Trump tightly.
  • It’s a shrewd political strategy amid a well-funded primary challenge from Garland Tucker, a conservative businessman who paints Tillis as an enemy of the Trump agenda. But Tillis’ role as Trump’s new best friend threatens to undermine his profile as a diligent, unpredictable senator — and could damage his general election chances.
  • Most immediate, however, is surviving perhaps the toughest primary battle facing any Republican senator this cycle.
  • Meadows added that Tillis’ support for the special counsel bill and his shifting stance on the national emergency declaration “created an opening in a race that would generally not have seen a credible primary challenger.”
  • The wealthy Tucker is spending heavily on ads highlighting Tillis’ “flip-flop” on the border — Tillis’ most infamous episode as a senator — when he voted to uphold the national emergency after announcing his opposition in a Washington Post op-ed. Tillis boasts a 94 percent voting score with the president, but Tucker is pouring enough money into pointing out Tillis’ perceived dalliances away from Trump that the senator felt compelled to respond with an ad barrage of his own.
  • This year, Tucker is…draining Tillis of resources and allowing national Democrats to sit back and enjoy the show. It’s a situation that most other vulnerable incumbents have avoided, but Tillis’ plight is unique, having riled up parts of Trump’s base with his limited dissent.
  • Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) flirted with running against Tillis, but backed down. And while Meadows said he is not interested, he noted that with the state’s congressional districts in flux, “you could get a sitting member of Congress thinking it’s easier to run for Senate” than run for reelection in a blue district.
  • Tucker says he’s put $1.5 million of his own money into the race and will put in still more, hoping to tap into what he describes as long-standing conservative dissatisfaction with Tillis.
  • Public polling shows Tillis still has work to do. Public Policy Polling, Fox News and Morning Consult surveys show at least 25 percent of voters have no opinion of him, hampering his approval ratings.
  • “He is not really in control of how he’s defined,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster. “This double whammy of being seen as not different enough from Trump among suburbanites and not supportive enough among rural conservatives could end up being the kiss of death.”
  • North Carolina could easily be the tipping point for the GOP’s 53-seat majority.
  • The incumbent senator said he takes his primary “seriously” but considers Cunningham his opponent, not Tucker. Tucker retorted that since his entry in the race, Tillis is “Trump’s new best friend … he’s desperate to make the race about Trump.”