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.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:
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.
"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."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.
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."