Republican establishment-backed candidate Thom Tillis’ big victory in North Carolina Tuesday night significantly improves the overall Senate landscape for the GOP on the path toward taking back the chamber of Congress.
Tillis was the preferred nominee of party leaders and groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, which spent millions on his behalf. His victory secured North Carolina’s status as one of the marquee matchups this November. He’ll now take on Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, considered one of the most vulnerable senators this year.
“He’ll immediately begin campaigning against Hagan, who could have beaten Tillis’ Tea Party challengers,” said Greg Valliere, the chief political strategist at Potomac Research. “Running against Tillis will be much tougher; he’s now the slight favourite in a race that could determine control of the Senate.”
Here’s why the favourable North Carolina matchup is so important: Republicans need to swing six seats this November, while holding onto their own seats, to take back control of the Senate. The GOP is set to almost certainly pick up at least three, because of the retirement of Democrats in red states West Virginia, South Dakota, and Montana.
But any path to a GOP Senate takeover likely runs through North Carolina. It is one of a handful of other competitive seats with Democratic incumbents in which Republican chances are good — including Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska.
And as a key swing presidential state over the past two elections, North Carolina is being viewed as something of a bellwether. Almost unanimously, analysts have pegged the race as an even 50-50 toss-up — FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, the New York Times, the Cook Political Report, and the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato.
American Crossroads, the group with which Karl Rove was affiliated upon its formation, made it a point to help the more electable Tillis — it even spent $US1.6 million on his behalf over the final four weeks. On Tuesday night, everything went according to plan.
“It was clear from the start that Thom Tillis is the only proven conservative who can defeat Kay Hagan and take on President Obama’s liberal agenda, and tonight’s victory is the first step toward making that happen,” President and CEO Steven Law said in a statement after Tillis’ victory.
“We engaged early and worked closely with other center-right groups to help Tillis overcome a late dirty-tricks campaign orchestrated by Hagan and national Democrats. We expect Hagan’s tactics will get even more desperate, but we intend to hold her accountable for the mess she and Obama have made for North Carolina families in Washington.”
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