Thom Tillis has a substantial lead over a crowded field of Republican candidates bidding for the nomination to run against vulnerable incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan. With 41 percent of the precincts reporting Tillis has 45.7 percent of the vote. His closest rival, Greg Bannon a Tea Party libertarian, has 27.4 percent support.
For Tillis, the key is to clear 40 percent. That would enable him to avoid a costly run-off election in July.
Hagan is invested, literally, in seeing such a run-off. Taking a page from Democrats like Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, Hagan has been tying to undermine Tillis in the Republican primary by claiming, falsely it appears, that he thought Obamacare was a good idea.
So far, so good for Tillis tonight, however.
UPDATE: Tillis will be the nominee, having cleared the 40 percent threshold. No run-off will be required.
The Republican “establishment,” including Karl Rove, heavily supported Tillis. So tonight’s result can be viewed as a win for the “establishment” and a defeat for the “grass roots.”
If Tillis defeats Hagan and goes on to be a conservative Senator (as I expect he will, if elected), then perhaps all of this will be forgotten. Meanwhile, I expect it will be forgiven as Republicans rally around their nominee and unite for purposes of defeating the Obama-supporting Kay Hagan.
In other North Carolina primary news, incumbent Republican congressman Walter Jones, elected to Congress 20 years ago, has held off a strong challenge in the Third District. Jones is an isolationist. He was opposed by Taylor Griffin, a former aid to President George W. Bush, who had the backing of Bill Kristol and the Emergency Committee for Israel.
Jones has defeated Griffin by around 6 points.