For a Republican establishment still spooked by the ghosts of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock — grassroots-backed conservatives who threw away winnable Senate races in recent elections with tone-deaf remarks about abortion — Tuesday can’t come soon enough.
In North Carolina, Republicans are watching closely to see if Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), the state House speaker and maybe the party’s best bet to unseat endangered Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan this November, can capture 40% of the vote in Tuesday’s GOP Senate primary.
If he does, Tillis will become the party’s Senate nominee, and Washington Republicans will breathe a little easier knowing they’ve dodged a long and expensive runoff battle between Tillis, the consensus frontrunner, and a flame-throwing conservative rival. Perhaps more importantly, Republicans will have picked a Senate candidate who doesn’t immediately jeopardize their chances of defeating Hagan, whose approval ratings are dangerously low, and flipping a crucial swing state Senate seat into GOP hands.
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