Gov. Pat McCrory thinks Thom Tillis is the best candidate if Republicans want to win the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina.
“I think Tillis has the best chance to win a general election,” McCrory told The Washington Post on Thursday. “From a political perspective, there’s no doubt in my mind that Tillis has the best chance to win in the general election. I think you can see that in the attacks from D.C. going after Tillis.”
The statement stops short of an endorsement – though observers say one is likely in coming weeks – but it sends a signal to Republican voters who want to beat Democrat Kay Hagan in November.
Tillis faces seven other challengers but is the preferred candidate among top Republicans in Washington. McCrory and Tillis often were at odds in the governor’s first year of office, but generally the two Charlotte area politicians are allies.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Tillis rival Greg Brannon’s campaign suggested McCrory’s logic is twisted. Just because Democrats are attacking Tillis, doesn’t make him the most electable, said campaign manager Reilly O’Neal, who pointed to a 2012 effort by Democrats to influence the 2012 GOP primary in Missouri.
“Basing electability on which candidate is attacked most is foolish. The same strategy of using attacks to boost the weakest general election opponent was successfully used by Claire McCaskill against Todd Akin in Missouri. And we all know how that turned out,” O’Neal said in a statement. “Like Todd Akin, Thom Tillis repeatedly polls at the back of the Republican field when matched up against Hagan.”
In response to a question, Charlotte pastor Mark Harris’ campaign likewise disputed McCrory’s reasoning. The latest polling tells a different story and confirms that Mark Harris is the one candidate trending upwards and is the one candidate that beats Kay Hagan outside the margin of error,” spokesman Mike Rusher said.