Raleigh – It’s official: Senator Tillis earned himself a GOP primary challenger, the latest blow for his reelection campaign and the surest sign yet that he doesn’t even have the trust or support from local Republicans that he needs ahead of 2020.
In the last few months alone, Republicans – from elected officials, county parties, GOP operatives, outside groups, and activists – publicly criticized Senator Tillis and pushed to dump their incumbent senator. Just last week, Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows declined to “fully support” Senator Tillis and predicted Tillis will have a “legitimate” primary opponent because of his growing issues with North Carolina Republican voters.
One GOP operative even predicted “Thom Tillis won’t be a senator after 2020” while an outside conservative group blasted him as “a dead man walking.”
Polling released last week underscored why: Senator Tillis’ approval rating among Republican voters dropped 12 points since the start of the year and he “has the second-lowest base support among GOP Senators up in 2020.”
In short, Tillis has “lost credibility with North Carolina Republicans.”
Worse for Senator Tillis, businessman Garland Tucker “has the ability to self-fund and could force Tillis to the right in the primary” – forcing him to stake out positions popular with the far-right elements of his party but that are unpopular with the rest of the state and the moderate voters he needs to win a general election.
“Congratulations to Senator Tillis on proving to be so untrustworthy that he now has to fight through a protracted primary campaign,” NCDP spokesman Robert Howard. “The rocky start to Senator Tillis’ reelection campaign can be traced back to the fact that North Carolinians of all political stripes know they can’t trust him.”