Thom Tillis Wins North Carolina GOP Senate Nomination

The state House speaker’s establishment-backed campaign now turns to the November contest in a crucial battleground race.

Thom Tillis (R) North Carolina during an interview at Roll Call in Washington, D.C.
National Journal
Andrea Drusch
See more stories about...
Andrea Drusch
May 6, 2014, 5:29 p.m.

North Car­o­lina state House Speak­er Thom Tillis will take on Demo­crat­ic Sen. Kay Hagan in Novem­ber after pulling to­geth­er enough sup­port dur­ing Tues­day’s Re­pub­lic­an primary to avoid a run­off and win the nom­in­a­tion out­right, the out­come many na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­ans hoped for.

Tillis, long con­sidered the GOP primary front-run­ner, earned 46 per­cent of the vote with 41 per­cent of pre­cincts re­port­ing when the As­so­ci­ated Press called the race Tues­day night. He needed at least 40 per­cent sup­port to avoid a run­off.

Tea-party act­iv­ist and phys­i­cian Greg Bran­non and pas­tor Mark Har­ris — Tillis’s two main rivals for the nom­in­a­tion — fin­ished with 27 per­cent and 17 per­cent, re­spect­ively. Five oth­er Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates di­vided the re­mainder.

The busi­ness-backed Tillis was the GOP es­tab­lish­ment’s an­swer to tea-party chal­lenges in the Tar Heel State and a vic­tory in their ef­fort to se­lect elect­able nom­in­ees in this year’s battle­ground Sen­ate con­tests. By Tues­day’s primary, Tillis had a de­cis­ive edge in name re­cog­ni­tion over his rivals, thanks in part to an ag­gress­ive spend­ing cam­paign from out­side groups work­ing on his be­half. The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Karl Rove-backed group Amer­ic­an Cross­roads both backed Tillis, with Cross­roads spend­ing $1.6 mil­lion blitz to boost him even as Hagan, who is deeply en­dangered, tried to soften Tillis’s con­ser­vat­ive sup­port with ads us­ing a cut-off quote from the state le­gis­lat­or to make it look like he once sup­por­ted Obama­care.

Mean­while, Tillis un­der­cut con­ser­vat­ive rivals by se­cur­ing en­dorse­ments from the Na­tion­al Rifle As­so­ci­ation and Na­tion­al Right to Life. Bran­non and Har­ris, touted some big-name en­dorse­ments: Sen. Rand Paul backed Bran­non, while former Arkan­sas Gov. Mike Hucka­bee sup­por­ted Har­ris. But as the name-re­cog­ni­tion num­bers show, both failed to catch on, with one prin­cip­al reas­on be­ing a lack of funds. Head­ing in­to the fi­nal month of the primary, Tillis had out­raised them 3-to-1, and the out­side spend­ing made the dis­par­ity even worse.

What We're Following See More »
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
2 days ago

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
2 days ago

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
2 days ago

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Sanders: Obama Is a Progressive
1 days ago

“Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” said Bernie Sanders, in response to a direct question in tonight’s debate. “I think they’ve done a great job.” But Hillary Clinton wasn’t content to sit out the latest chapter in the great debate over the definition of progressivism. “In your definition, with you being the gatekeeper of progressivism, I don’t think anyone else fits that definition,” she told Sanders.