Senator Thom Tillis looks more vulnerable than ever this week, and in response, Mitch McConnell-aligned special interest groups are rushing to his defense, committing to spend $190 million to “protect McConnell’s most endangered incumbents” including Tillis.
Tillis’ growing weakness is the result of a tough primary against Garland Tucker that has left Tillis spending millions on TV, digital, and radio ads and a microsite to tout his endorsement from President Trump, all while “not raising the money needed in an expensive state.”
Matters got worse for Tillis yesterday when a pro-Garland group made a six-figure ad buy attacking his conservative credentials, citing his flip-flop on a border wall.
It’s no wonder Tillis “appears to be sweating” his primary — he’s under water among North Carolina’s GOP voters and has even been booed at Trump rallies.
Tillis’ tough position has brought on a wave of lousy press.
- Fayetteville Observer: “One notable exception to the chorus of criticism was Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican who faces a tough primary fight, has been boasting of Trump’s support in campaign ads and will not be caught criticizing the president in anyway.”
- WRAL: “North Carolinians cannot rely on Sen. Thom Tillis – who quakes at every Trump tweet and parrots whatever spin the White House sends out.”
- News & Observer: “Although Tillis was at Bragg primarily to hear complaints about poor conditions in on-base housing — which won’t be affected by any potential cuts — some in the audience cited those cuts to question his broader commitment to the military. Some in the audience questioned how committed he was to their plight. ‘How can we trust you to fix it if you’re taking money from us actively for a border wall?’ asked Tamara Terry, whose husband is stationed at Fort Bragg.”
- WFAE: “’But at this point, I’m giving the president the benefit of the doubt,’ Tillis said. Other Republicans have criticized the president. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, typically a vocal Trump supporter, said the president’s plan was ‘delusional and dangerous.’ He said the U.S. couldn’t abandon the Kurds, who helped the U.S. troops defeat the Islamic State. Tillis, a first-term Senator, is running for re-election in 2020. He has a primary opponent, Garland Tucker, who says Tillis hasn’t fully supported the president.”
- WRAL: “What Tillis says he believes and what he does are now revealed to be VERY different things – particularly when a re-election is on the line. If the senator goes looking for the definition of ‘situational principles,’ now, he may find his picture beside it in the dictionary. Not only has he misled and let his constituents down, he’s bailed on his fellow senators – including the 12 Republicans who voted to pass the resolution 59-41 — though short of the 67 votes needed to override a promised presidential veto.”
- Vice News: “Tillis, who’s up for re-election in 2020, made a costly error earlier this year: He crossed President Trump. After Trump announced a plan to raid military funding for his border wall, Tillis spoke out against the plan. That triggered talk of a serious primary challenge. So Tillis flip-flopped — which drew widespread ridicule without winning back his base. Now Tillis is facing incoming from all sides. Loyal Trump fans see him as an unreliable ally. Democrats are hammering him for choosing his party base over the state’s military bases, which are slated to lose at least $50 million in funding to Trump’s border wall project.”
National race-raters have also weighed in, moving the race further in Cal Cunningham’s direction.
- Cook Political Report: “The bottom line is that voters of all ideological stripes simply don’t trust Tillis. It’s not surprising then that Tillis pulled primary opposition.”
- Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Tillis, in particular, appears to be sweating the challenge from businessman Garland Tucker (R), as the incumbent has dropped $2 million on a pre-primary ad buy and is highlighting his backing from Trump. McSally was already firmly in the Toss-up column, and we’re moving Tillis to that rating too. His personal favorability numbers are not good, and his primary challenge is pushing him to embrace Trump strongly, which may or may not be the right move in the long term.”
- Inside Elections: “It’s not even Fall yet, but Republicans have already spent a few million dollars on the race. Garland Tucker… has spent nearly $1 million on cable in his bid for the GOP nomination. In response, Tillis has spent (or reserved) more than $2 million for television ads through next year’s primary.”