Vulnerable GOP senator blows half his money on ad about how much he loves Trump


Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is spending more than $2 million on a new television ad to fend off a far-right primary challenger.

Worried about a primary opponent, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) is spending half of his campaign cash on a new television ad tying himself tightly to Donald Trump, the Raleigh News & Observer reported Tuesday.

The ad uses footage from a July campaign event showing Trump praising Tillis, saying, "He's been a warrior, really a warrior, when we needed him most," and then adding, "Make sure he gets reelected."

The footage is from the same rally where Trump launched into a racist attack against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and smiled as the crowd chanted, "Send her back!"

Tillis opted not to use footage from Trump's September rally in the state, where Tillis was booed by the Republican crowd every time his name was mentioned.

The $2.2 million ad buy means Tillis is burning through half of his entire bank account in an effort seemingly aimed at fending off Garland Tucker, a primary opponent who regularly accuses Tillis of being insufficiently supportive of Trump.

"If anyone needed a sign that Tillis is vulnerable in a primary, this ad is a flashing red light," Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the non-partisan Cook Political Report, told the News & Observer.

A spokesperson for the North Carolina Democratic Party had harsher criticism.

"Senator Tillis launched his wobbling reelection campaign this past week facing a chorus of boos from skeptical Republican voters and scathing criticism from North Carolina editorial boards after his spineless decision to cave to President Trump cost the state's military bases $80 million in funding," Robert Howard, an NCDP spokesperson, said in a statement. "North Carolinians won't be fooled by a tough-talking ad when they know the real Senator Tillis is a spineless politician who puts his reelection chances before what's best for North Carolina."

While Tillis' stances are hammered from the left, the Tucker campaign relentlessly attacks him for not being far-right enough. The twin attacks leave Tillis wildly unpopular in the state, according to recent polling.

In an August poll, Tillis was underwater with Republican voters, with only a 34% approval rating, while 38% disapprove of his job performance.

The September Republican rally where Tillis was booed was held in a deeply conservative district Tillis won by 12 points in his 2014 Senate race. But in a Sept. 10 congressional special election, the Republican nominee won by barely two points, suggesting Tillis could be in trouble for his 2020 reelection campaign.

Among Republicans running for reelection, Tillis has the lowest statewide approval rating, with merely a third of residents statewide approving of the job he is doing.

Tillis invited controversy after flip-flopping his stance on Trump raiding funds Congress appropriated for the military in order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Tillis initially announced he would vote against Trump, but then reversed himself and sided with Trump.

Tillis' vote helped enable Trump's seizing of $80 million from North Carolina military families to redirect to the border wall, which Trump previously promised Mexico would pay for.

As he starts advertising for his 2020 reelection, Tillis kicks things off by running far to the right in a state that recently elected a Democratic governor in 2018. The move "will make it more difficult for [Tillis] to move toward the center in the general election," Duffy added.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.