RALEIGH, N.C. — The GOP establishment is piling on in its support of Thom Tillis.
Two sources confirm to the National Journal that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will endorse the North Carolina House speaker, the Republican front-runner for his party’s Senate nomination who is fighting off an array of opponents in a primary. The endorsement is expected before the state’s May 6 primary.
One source with knowledge of the situation said the chamber also plans to air TV ads on his behalf, a big boost for a candidate who already holds a sizable fundraising advantage over his intra-party foes.
The business group’s backing is hardly a shock: The state’s speaker of the House is seen as the most establishment-friendly candidate in the North Carolina Republican field and is generally considered the only one capable of defeating Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in the fall. Tillis has already participated in fundraisers with Karl Rove and GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, and late last month the Rove-backed American Crossroads announced it would run ads in his support.
But the timing of the chamber’s support of Tillis, coming nearly a month before the primary, might surprise some, and counts as another example of the Republican establishment trying to use its influence to bolster candidates it considers the most viable in general elections. Although eager to avoid unelectable candidates like Todd Akin or Christine O’Donnell, top GOP strategists have been wary of overtly backing their favored candidates because of the backlash it might incite among grassroots conservatives.
So far this year, they have carefully selected supporting only the candidates they consider the safest bets. (Crossroads, in addition to backing Tillis, has also run ads on behalf of a Republican Senate candidate in Alaska, Dan Sullivan.)
The establishment’s show of support might be winning over some conservatives, too. Tillis said Monday that he had received the endorsement of National Right to Life, an advocacy group that opposes abortion rights.
Republicans are hoping that Tillis not only wins the Republican primary but earns at least 40 percent of the vote, the threshold candidates must reach to avoid a runoff election that would cost him both time and money. His opponents, mindful that a runoff is likely their only remaining chance to win the nomination, are stepping up their criticism of Tillis in hopes of keeping him below 40 percent.
North Carolina is considered a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans in the fall and is central to their plans to reclaim the Senate majority. Hagan, however, is sitting on a mammoth war chest: Her campaign said Monday that she had raised $2.8 million in the first fundraising quarter and had $8.3 million on hand at the end of March.
Tillis’s campaign said Monday that it had raised $1.3 million in the year’s first quarter.
What We're Following See More »
First, it was Sean Spicer. Then Reince Priebus. Now, presidential adviser Steve Bannon, perhaps the administration's biggest lightning rod for criticism, is out. “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.” That's not to say the parting of ways isn't controversial. Bannon says he submitted his resignation on Aug. 7, but earlier today, "the president had told senior aides that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon."
"The Trump administration has ended Operation Choke Point, the anti-fraud initiative started under the Obama administration that many Republicans argued was used to target gun retailers and other businesses that Democrats found objectionable. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told GOP representatives in a Wednesday letter that the long-running program had ended, bringing a conclusion to a chapter in the Obama years that long provoked and angered conservatives who saw Choke Point as an extra-legal crackdown on politically disfavored groups."
"Liberal groups are raising questions about a speaking appearance Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch plans to make next month at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Gorsuch is scheduled to headline a luncheon celebrating the 50th anniversary of conservative group The Fund for American Studies on September 28, days before the next SCOTUS term begins October 2. Steve Slattery, a spokesman for The Fund for American Studies, said Gorsuch had nothing to do with venue choice, which was made long before the group asked Gorsuch to speak."
"The Trump administration has lost a handful of individuals serving in top cybersecurity roles across the federal government in recent weeks, even as it has struggled to fill high-ranking IT positions. The developments present hurdles for the new administration and speak to the longstanding challenge the federal government faces in competing with the private sector for top tech talent." Among those resigning is Richard Staropoli, "a former U.S. Secret Service agent who served as chief information officer (CIO) of the Department of Homeland Security for just three months," and Dave DeVries, the CIO at OPM. Separately, the White House announced today that President Trump has directed that United States Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on cyberspace operations.