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North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis
House Speaker Thom Tillis
In 2010, establishment Republicans embraced the tea party, or at least pretended to. That approach bit them in the ass with losses in states like Delaware, and many of the tea partiers who were elected to Congress, though staunch Republicans, weren't what you'd call disciplined and safe establishment favorites. Still, in 2012, the establishment took a mostly hands off approach. But 2014 is shaping up differently. Case in point: North Carolina, where state House Speaker Thom Tillis has been chosen as the establishment's golden boy out of a crowded primary field of Republicans seeking to challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.
Tillis is the prototype of an establishment candidate. The onetime Pricewaterhouse- Coopers partner-turned-ladder-climbing-state-legislative-leader is a Republican donor's dream, and he's got the fundraising results to prove it. He has ties to Wall Street and the business community, political experience, and a strategist's sensibility: He led the successful GOP effort to retake the General Assembly in 2010, giving Republicans unified control of state government for the first time in more than a century. And Tillis is disciplined. He is consistently on message, never straying into dangerous waters. In short, Tillis, with his pragmatic streak and country-club credentials, represents just about everything tea partiers rose up to oppose.

Thus far, he has handled that delicate matter largely by keeping a low profile in the race, whenever possible avoiding forums where his conservative opponents might raise questions about his ideological fidelity. [...] The plan is for him simply to run out the primary clock—while teammates like American Crossroads, which had begun singing his praises that week to the tune of $1 million in ads, hold off his rivals.

His rivals are not exactly thrilled as they watch groups lining up behind Tillis. At an event where Tillis announced that he'd been endorsed by National Right to Life, one of his competitors, Baptist minister Mark Harris, initially questioned that Tillis really had gotten the endorsement:
"When he said he had the endorsement of the National Right to Life—somebody needs to check into that," Harris said. "Because we all met with the National Right to Life. I know I met with them in October, and they indicated to me that they probably would not be endorsing in the primary."

But one of Harris's strategists, Mike Rusher, who had been standing beside him scrolling through screens on his smartphone, quickly confirmed that the endorsement was real. Harris turned red and paused for a few seconds before responding. "I guess it's just an indication of the National Republican Senatorial Committee's pressure," he said. As it turned out, it was worse than that. In the press release announcing the endorsement, National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said Tillis was the "only candidate with a proven record of leadership who can defeat pro-abortion Sen. Hagan this fall."

If Tillis can get 40 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary, he'll avoid a runoff that pits him against just one competitor from the right. Establishment Republicans are pouring a lot of money into making sure that happens—but if Tillis falls short of 40 percent, he'll face a single opponent and, potentially, a pissed-off grassroots.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Fri May 02, 2014 at 10:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by North Carolina BLUE and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  pop more 'baggers of popcorn (8+ / 0-)

    Rally to Restore Sanity / Fear

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Fri May 02, 2014 at 10:30:26 AM PDT

    •  the establishment stimulus package (0+ / 0-)

      meets the Koch stimulus package, and the winners are local tv stations and campaign advisors, videomakers, paid bloggers, the food trucks outside the TV stations, the babysitters and housekeeper of the contract winners.

      Is it Godzilla vs. FantasyMan?

      plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

      by anna shane on Fri May 02, 2014 at 01:04:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's GOP-style wealth re-distribution. nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        anna shane

        AT TODAY'S OPEN THREAD, PROOF WILL BE PROVIDED ON HOW I AM BEING "CONSTANTLY CALLED OUT" ON DAILY KOS FOR BEING BAD. Moreover, the dossier on my activities during the Bush administration will have an appendix concluding that I am Wrong.

        by Inland on Fri May 02, 2014 at 01:07:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  it's the best we'll get (0+ / 0-)

          no minimum wage increase, food stamp cuts but there is jeb vs. the tea party.  Lucky they're split, whichever one wins, there will be lingering bitterness and betrayal.  

          plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

          by anna shane on Fri May 02, 2014 at 01:19:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Reminds me of Onion article (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Phoenix Woman

      AT TODAY'S OPEN THREAD, PROOF WILL BE PROVIDED ON HOW I AM BEING "CONSTANTLY CALLED OUT" ON DAILY KOS FOR BEING BAD. Moreover, the dossier on my activities during the Bush administration will have an appendix concluding that I am Wrong.

      by Inland on Fri May 02, 2014 at 01:06:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Harris Should Get Out Of The Race And Back (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anna shane, a2nite

    Brannon just to thwart the establishment GOP.

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Fri May 02, 2014 at 10:57:10 AM PDT

  •  Gee, I kind of wish our (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anna shane

    side [the progressive or liberal side] had enough sway in the dem party to cause a similar effort.  Establishment Dems know all they have to say is, "boo," and our faction crumbles.  

    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

    by dfarrah on Fri May 02, 2014 at 11:09:01 AM PDT

  •  Tea Party is being stabbed in the back by the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phoenix Woman, a2nite

    same old Washington establishment interests, and I'm deeply concerned.   I hope they let the establishment party hacks know that they are gong to walk away in the general unless their candidates get a fair shake.

    AT TODAY'S OPEN THREAD, PROOF WILL BE PROVIDED ON HOW I AM BEING "CONSTANTLY CALLED OUT" ON DAILY KOS FOR BEING BAD. Moreover, the dossier on my activities during the Bush administration will have an appendix concluding that I am Wrong.

    by Inland on Fri May 02, 2014 at 01:05:18 PM PDT

  •  Tillis's favorable polling numbers have taken a (0+ / 0-)

    mind-blowing jump.....causing some wingnuts to wonder wtf is going on here?

    •  That's surprising considering (2+ / 0-)

      he is the House Speaker in a legislature whose approval rating across the board was tanking late last year.  The Moral Monday protesters were actually viewed more favorably  than McCrony or the NCGA.

      But besides Crossroads and AFP, Tillis is ALEC's golden boy.  They named him their NC legislator of the year in 2012.  Locally, he'll have Pope, Murphy and the rest of NC20 backing him with a war chest of mythic proportion.  The big money groups discovered that backing the Teahaddists was a bit like igniting a thermite reaction.  You can't control it and you can't put it out until it expends all of its fuel.  Brannon and Harris are radioactive with those groups now because TP extremism has outlived its usefulness.  It served its purpose in the 2010 midterms and now they're going to let it burn out quietly.

      I somehow doubt that Tillis will have a problem getting his 40% in the primary.  I wish it were not so, because I would LOVE to see him bleed a little more before November.  But if the ALEC poster boy who backed Amendment One, despite feeling like it was destined to be repealed in 10-20 years (his words) and who has so obviously and frequently fellated the monied elite can get through the primary without too many scars, he has a frighteningly good chance to take Hagan's seat.

      I'll believe corporations are people when one comes home from Afghanistan in a body bag.

      by mojo11 on Fri May 02, 2014 at 01:19:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Um. Well. In Iowa, the establishment gave (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    over the party to the religious fundamentalists.  If they have a strategy, it's not very comprehensive or very deep.  Maybe they have a few candidates, but I'd say the GOP establishment has been . . . well schooled . . . in Not Doing Anything To Rock The Boat.  

    They've lost.  They just haven't realized it yet.

    Think about the baby Jesus. Up in that tower, letting His hair down so that the three wise men could climb up and spin the dreidle and see if there's six more weeks of winter. -- Will and Grace

    by Rikon Snow on Fri May 02, 2014 at 01:07:26 PM PDT

  •  The only advantage of the infighting is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the damage being done to the message of the GOPer candidates.  They will likely, like Mitt experienced, need to make themselves go extreme in the primaries and thereby lose creditability on the larger national and state wide stage.

    The problem is that in our gerrymandered age "red is red, blue is blue" and there isn't very much purple.  The house will stay red for a few cycles pretty much no matter what is said.  But, we could lose the Senate with infighting as that would diminish the advantage we have of a "unified" front.

    It's funny how that has changed over the last few decades.  The Dems always fought and the Reps offered a unified front.  Before you know it tiedyes, bellbottoms and mini skirts will be back :-)

    The ground for taking ignorance to be restrictive of freedom is that it causes people to make choices which they would not have made if they had seen what the realization of their choices involved. A.J. Ayer, Sir. "The Concept of Freedom "

    by Memory Corrupted on Fri May 02, 2014 at 01:10:19 PM PDT

  •  Tillis and McCrory are very similar, both thin (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    skinned, and not "true believers" but willing go any way the the political wind is blowing

  •  Buying themselves an election (0+ / 0-)

    and a State, thinking they can rule that way. Spoiler alert: at some point, both the base and the mainstream electorate will find out what's going on.

  •  Koch Stealing NC Supreme Justice Alert!!! (3+ / 0-)

    For all of you that can vote in the NC primary or know someone who can (Saturday and Tuesday).

    Only two candidates for Judge survive the "non-partisan" primary.

    The Koch Brothers conspired  to enter two candidates to run against Justice Hudson -- Eric Levinson and Jeanette Doran.

    One group is supporting Eric Levinson and Jeanette Doran with significant $$$.

    Another group is trashing Justice Hudson with very nasty tv ads with significant $$$ ("she supports child molesters privacy").

    If Levinson and Doran get more votes than Hudson on May 6 it is over and the Koch brothers own our NC Supreme Court.

    Since all of the primaries are on the GOP side a lot of Dems are staying home and don't know about these despicable acts nor this very bad situation!

    The highest form of spiritual practice is self observation with compassion.

    by NCJim on Fri May 02, 2014 at 01:17:57 PM PDT

    •  And Duran is essentially a political hack, (0+ / 0-)

      an executive director of a rightwing organization called the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law. She's not even a judge.

      Yes, this is a very bad situation! Levinson is bad enough; Doran is unacceptable. And as you say, they are being bought by heavily Koch- and Pope-financed corporate interests so that the actual citizens of North Carolina will have no representation at all on the state supreme court.

      "Bernie Madoff's mistake was stealing from the rich. If he'd stolen from the poor he'd have a cabinet position." -OPOL

      by blue in NC on Fri May 02, 2014 at 01:55:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thom Tillis is "mainstream"?! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, blue in NC, Sixty Something

    You have to be kidding me...

  •  The only good part is that Tillis is REALLY, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mjd in florida

    REALLY hated overall in North Carolina.

    The past three years of Republican legislation has been very unpopular across many demographics in the state. The ending of extended unemployment insurance, the refusal to accept federal Medicaid dollars, the massive tax cuts on the super rich funded by actual tax increases on working-class folks, the absolute abuse of teachers, both financially and operationally, the systematic attempts to dismantle our public schools, the attempts to defund even the highly-popular UNC system, the environmental destruction (think "Duke Power Coal Ash" and "Fracking"), the elimination of the state Earned Income Credit, "Amendment 1", the Voter Suppression Act...all are wildly unpopular, and Tillis is the public face of that legislation.

    Furthermore, North Carolina is a "plurality Democrat" state, with voter registration standing at 42.3% Democratic, 30.6% Republican, and 26.8% unaffiliated. Now, many of the Democrats are "Blue Dogs", but Democrats are Democrats, and Kay Hagan is sort of blue-doggish herself. Even many moderate Republicans hate the legislature's actions.

    I'd say that Tillis would be a great opponent for Hagan, because all Hagan has to do is keep reminding voters that all the legislation they hate came from Tillis.

    Republicans in North Carolina depended on rampant and extreme gerrymandering to achieve their supermajorities in the general assembly and in congress. They won't have the benefit of their gerrymandering in the Senate election.

    I like Sen. Hagan's chances against Tillis. His legislative record has been just too unpopular to do anything but help Hagan.

    "Bernie Madoff's mistake was stealing from the rich. If he'd stolen from the poor he'd have a cabinet position." -OPOL

    by blue in NC on Fri May 02, 2014 at 02:09:09 PM PDT

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