Less than 120 days from Election Day, all signs point to a “perilous” re-election campaign for vulnerable incumbent Senator Thom Tillis. National Republicans are “sounding alarms” after being pummeled by Democratic Senate challengers in the second quarter of 2020. Thom Tillis was no exception. Powered by “strong small-dollar fundraising,” Cal Cunningham nearly tripled Tillis’ fundraising, outraising him by $5 million, and erasing his cash-on-hand advantage.
This comes to no surprise given the latest polling showing Cal with an edge and Tillis with an abysmal 28 percent favorability rating and a “real problem with base enthusiasm.” Even worse, he hasn’t made any inroads with independent voters, a key voting bloc to win in North Carolina, exemplified by Jay Copan who said he’s supporting Cal Cunningham because “Thom Tillis is so in the tank for Trump.” The personification of GOP subservience, Tillis’ decisions have also led to a recent op-ed from a former Republican congressman who asks: “Where did Thom Tillis’s integrity go?”
If money woes and low favorability weren’t weak enough, his record blocking Medicaid expansion and attacking health care remains in the spotlight and he’s blindly hitched his wagon to the president whose failed response to the coronavirus is leaving North Carolinians vulnerable. In what has been described as “the most severe form of political wishful thinking,” Tillis is now trying to “yada yada yada” away the president’s handling of the public health crisis, saying: “I know we’re going to win because people remember how good their lives were in February.”
Yikes. Just take it from one Senate GOP strategist: “We’re scared to death by what we see.”
Read more about Tillis’ uphill battle to November.
News & Observer: Tillis’ fundraising numbers highlight Republican money struggles vs. Democrats in NC
By Brian Murphy & Will Doran – July 15, 2020
- Democrats in many of North Carolina’s top statewide races far out-raised their Republican opponents over the past few months.
- Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham raised $7.4 million in the second quarter of 2020, a record-breaking amount for a quarter for a Senate candidate. Incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican, raised $2.6 million from April through June, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday.
- The state is considered one of the nation’s top battlegrounds for winning the presidency and control of the U.S. Senate, both currently in Republican hands. Cooper won the governor’s mansion by less than 11,000 votes in 2016.
- Tillis reported having $6.8 million cash on hand for the November election as of July 1. Cunningham, who has trailed Tillis throughout the campaign cycle in cash on hand, had $6.6 million on July 1.
- During the second quarter of 2020, the U.S. has dealt with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic; the civil unrest and protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer; and most recently, a surge in coronavirus cases across vast parts of the South and West.
- Cunningham out-raised Tillis $4.4 million to $2.1 million in the first three months of 2020, prompting Tillis’ campaign manager to signal concern about the “need to ramp up our fundraising in order to keep pace.”
- Cunningham’s campaign said it received contributions from more than 29,000 North Carolinians.
- “If you thought things couldn’t get worse for Senator Tillis, they just did,” Cunningham campaign manager Devan Barber said in a statement. “In November when Cal takes this seat back for North Carolina, Tillis will be quickly forgotten following a failed Senate career and unbelievably weak candidacy.”
- The Senate race is considered a toss-up by national outlets, though Cunningham has led in seven of the last nine polls conducted in the race since the beginning of June. One had the race tied.
Wall Street Journal: Republicans Alarmed by Democratic Senate Hopefuls’ Fundraising Haul
By Julie Bykowicz and Lindsay Wise – July 16, 2020
- Republicans are sounding alarms after Democratic Senate candidates outraised their GOP opponents in the first six months of the year, a gulf driven largely by small-dollar online contributions.
- Democratic candidates in the 11 most competitive Senate races collectively raised $67.3 million in the second quarter of the year, $20.5 million more than their Republican counterparts, according to fundraising reports filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission. The total includes two Republicans who gave almost $6.5 million to their own campaigns. Democrats in those battleground states—which include Arizona and North Carolina—also raised more than Republicans in the first three months of the year.
- GOP strategists called the fundraising gap an urgent problem, as Senate Republicans facing re-election this year see their polling numbers dip in important battleground states. And they warn it could harm Republicans’ prospects in elections long after 2020.
- “It’s a serious fundraising disparity that jeopardizes our Senate majority, and Republican senators need to wake up and develop a small-dollar program or they’ll be out of a job,” said Michael Duncan, a Republican digital strategist who works with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign.
- “We’re scared to death by what we see,” another Senate GOP strategist said.
- In North Carolina, Democrat Cal Cunningham had half as much cash on hand as Republican Sen. Thom Tillis at the end of March. But Mr. Cunningham’s strong small-dollar fundraising—which more than doubled Mr. Tillis’s in the second quarter—helped him close that gap almost entirely by the end of June, the filings show.
Associated Press: Democrat’s big cash haul signals perilous Tillis reelect bid
By Gary Robertson – July 16, 2020
- North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis was outraised nearly 3-to-1 by his Democratic challenger in the last quarter, according to campaign reports that signal a more precarious reelection bid for the Republican in the presidential battleground state.
- Cal Cunningham’s campaign took in a whopping $7.4 million in the second quarter, compared to $2.6 million by Tillis, according to filings due late Wednesday at the Federal Election Commission. The two campaigns were essentially tied with cash in their coffers starting July 1 — Tillis had $6.8 million and Cunningham $6.6 million.
- The flat fundraising for Tillis — slightly more than what he collected in the first quarter — contrasts with Cunningham, whose campaign said he took in the largest quarterly haul ever raised by a North Carolina Senate candidate. The fundraising period began April 1, during the depths of North Carolina’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order and weeks after both candidates won their respective primaries.
- The money chase indicates trouble for Tillis, who is one of a handful of Senate Republicans considered vulnerable this fall. The Democrats need to net four additional seats — or three seats while winning the presidency — to take back control of the Senate.
- “If you thought things couldn’t get worse for Senator Tillis, they just did,” Cunningham campaign manager Devan Barber said in a news release while crowing about the fundraising advantage. She predicted that after, November ”Tillis will be quickly forgotten following a failed Senate career and unbelievably weak candidacy.”
- This time, Tillis is running as the incumbent during a presidential election year in which President Donald Trump’s approval numbers have dropped during a pandemic and unrest. Trump last year endorsed Tillis, who then became one of the president’s strongest defenders during his impeachment trial and took every opportunity to hitch his wagon to Trump’s.
- Tillis has pulled back and tried to be perceived as more consensus-oriented. During more than 50 online town halls since the pandemic, Tillis praised Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order and has consistently supported the wearing of face masks in public.
- Cunningham has blasted Tillis for failing to get enough federal COVID-19 aid and resources to North Carolina residents.
- He’s returned consistently to health care. On a conference call last week, Cunningham reiterated that Tillis helped pass a law while state House speaker that blocked expansion of Medicaid that could have allowed hundreds of thousands of people to have coverage now. North Carolina remains one of a dozen states that hasn’t accepted expansion.
- “It’s clear that the occupant of this Senate seat has not served the people of North Carolina when we’ve needed it the most,” Cunningham said in a newspaper op-ed this month. “I’m ready to put this seat back to work.”
- “I know we’re going to win because people remember how good their lives were in February,” Tillis said at last week’s virtual state GOP convention. The two candidates have agreed to three televised debates, but Tillis has wanted more.