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As Senator Tillis seeks re-election, he is seizing on the “immediate political benefit” of standing by the GOP, while proving every day that he is incapable of being an independent voice for North Carolina.
A new profile from the Associated Press this weekend noted that despite a 2014 campaign in which he backed bedrock Republican base issues while winning over independents with an anti-Obama message, today Tillis leaves far less space for drawing in independents having “backed the president’s border wall and said he would give Trump the ‘benefit of the doubt’ for now on pulling U.S. troops from Syria.”
It’s left Tillis “facing questions from some about his conservative credentials,” earning him a primary challenge from “a substantially self-funded candidate” in Garland Tucker, who has already forced Tillis to start spending in September with a more than $2 million TV buy. Since then, he’s gone on TV again, and released digital ads, radio ads and a microsite.
Tillis’ Democratic opponent, Cal Cunningham, spoke plainly about Tillis’ inability to stand up to the White House saying he “appears to be trying to save his political skin,” and that North Carolinians “…will continue to see him take his cue from the White House about where he’s going to stand on the issues.”
Read more below.
Associated Press: N Carolina Senator Has Latched On To Trump. Will He Hold On?
By Gary Robertson — November 9, 2019
Sen. Thom Tillis is following a simple formula for reelection in closely divided North Carolina: Stand with Donald Trump.
…while some vulnerable Republicans have tried to hold the polarizing president at arm’s length, Tillis boasts of Trump’s endorsement.
Once labeled as a business-friendly moderate, and facing questions from some about his conservative credentials, the mild-mannered, former IBM consultant has dismissed the Democrats’ impeachment probe as politically motivated, backed the president’s border wall and said he would give Trump the “benefit of the doubt” for now on pulling U.S. troops from Syria.
That may have immediate political benefit as he fends off a March primary challenge from a substantially self-funded candidate. But it also comes with general election risks in North Carolina
Tillis’ race will likely test whether Republicans who hitch their wagons to Trump early can hold on to the end.
“He needs the Trump support to have a shot in the general election, but on the other hand aligning himself too closely with Trump hurts him with moderate and independent voters,” Meredith College political science professor David McLennan said.
The 2020 election, McLennan added, “is a very touchy situation for Tillis to be in.”
Tillis is in the small Republican group targeted by Democrats in their push to flip four seats and seize Senate control.
Republican primary challenger Garland Tucker, a former investment firm CEO, has seized on immigration — and his $1.1 million in personal loans — to fuel his campaign. Tucker says Tillis hasn’t lived up to promises to control spending and secure the border.
Conservatives uneasy with Tillis cite his brief opposition to Trump’s plan to divert military spending for his U.S.-Mexico wall. In February, Tillis cited “grave concerns” about executive overreach. He later reversed himself and voted for the plan.
“I don’t like Thom Tillis, he’s wishy-washy,” said Diane Ezzell of Marshville, before entering a September rally featuring Trump in Fayetteville, where scattered boos greeted Tillis. “We’ll vote for a conservative, but it probably won’t be him.”
Tillis’ support for Trump is raising hopes among the Democratic primary field.
“He appears to be trying to save his political skin,” said Cal Cunningham, who’s received the official endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “I think we will continue to see him take his cue from the White House about where he’s going to stand on the issues.”
Cunningham nearly matched Tillis’ third-quarter fundraising, although Tillis continues to have more cash than any candidate.
Read more here.