The GOP Senate primary in North Carolina Tuesday is the first real test of the battle between the Republican Establishment and the Tea Party of the 2014 election cycle, but the Establishmen’s pick, North Carolina state House Speaker Tillis, is heading into election day the firm favorite.
Indeed, if Tillis does not garner 40 percent, putting him well over his two more conservative rivals and beyond the “magic” percentage number needed to avoid a runoff, many Republicans will consider it a “win” for the Tea Party.
On Monday, PPP released a poll of likely Republican primary voters conducted between May 2 and May 3 that showed Tills with a 12 point lead over Brannon, 40 percent to 28 percent. Mark Harris, a pastor from Charlotte, is in third place with 15 percent.
In a press release accompanying the poll, Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling, said “Thom Tillis is still pretty well positioned to win without a runoff on Tuesday. But negative ads against him have taken a toll in the last week, giving Greg Brannon a chance of holding him under 40%.”
“Greg Brannon and Mark Harris are finally picking up steam, but it may be a case of too little too late,” the press release said.
Among the negative ads aimed at Tillis were some paid for by incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), a clear sign she and her campaign team consider Tillis her most dangerous threat.
Although there have been several other closely-watched GOP primary elections, none of the challengers posed as much of a threat as either Brannon or Harris. Each of the conservative rivals picked up endorsements from potential 2016 presidential candidates, for instance, with Sen. Rand Paul backing Brannon and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee backing Harris.
Pending primary elections include the May 20 contest between incumbent Republican Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and businessman Matt Bevin and the June 3 contest between incumbent Republican Senator Thad Cochran faces state Senator Chris McDaniel.