Democrats wasted little time in going after the state’s junior senator. In a statement, N.C. Democratic spokesman Robert Howard called Tillis’s his remarks a “tired, pathetic dodge.”
Tom Jensen, director of the left-leaning Public Policy Polling, said he has already seen an effect in the numbers.
In February, he said, Tillis’s approval stood at 39%. In the first poll after the Burr news broke in March, it was 26%.
“This is, I would argue, the first really huge news story involving either of them in the last decade and because voters don’t know either of them,” Jensen said. “This episode is acting to define both of them interchangeably in voters’ heads.”
The News & Observer reported that Dean Debnam, the company’s president and CEO, and his wife have given Cunningham’s campaign the maximum donation of $2,800.
Paul Shumaker, campaign consultant for both Burr and Tillis, said he doesn’t expect the Burr probe to have any effect on Tillis. Past scandals that have swept up prominent N.C. Democrats, including former Gov. Mike Easley, had little effect on other Democrats, he said.
“Neither side . . . comes to the table without sin and people see that,” Shumaker said. “Voters are not going to make their decision on the fact that you’ve got one senator in the state under investigation and one who’s not. That’s a stretch . . . Having another investigation in Washington is not anything new to anyone.”
But the ultimate effect could depend on whether the investigation of Burr leads to any charges.
“When the FBI gets involved that raises serious questions,” said political scientist Michael Bitzer of Catawba College. “As the news (about Burr) grows the pressure will likely be more intense on Tillis.”
Hood, of the Locke Foundation, said any criminal charges would hurt not only Tillis but other Republicans.
“That I think would affect the enthusiasm of Republicans in the state and perhaps elevate the enthusiasm of Democrats,” he said. “But again, you’d have to get to that point. Short of that the other issues in the election will loom far larger.”
According to Sam Brodey at The Daily Beast, the North Carolina GOP is starting to worry that this might take down Tillis:
Now, Tillis’ future in the Senate may come down to his ability to walk a tightrope between placating his GOP base and pleasing a growing bloc of North Carolina swing voters. It’s a balancing act that he’s faced for years, but the Burr drama now boils it down to its essence: while Tillis has to be careful not to close ranks behind Burr so as to not alienate voters who have soured on him, he risks alienating conservatives if he goes after Burr too aggressively.
Add it all up and some North Carolina Republicans are showing concern that Tillis’ fate could be tied into his fellow senator’s dealings.
“It don't matter which party you are, but anytime somebody is being under investigation it is going to fallout with everybody that they're associated with,” said Ron Wyatt, the chairman of the Iredell County Republican Party. “We've got two senators in North Carolina, so if one is being investigated, rightfully or wrongfully, then it is absolutely going to draw extra criticism and scrutiny on that other person that's in the same party, running for the equal position.”
“While nobody is surprised that people go to D.C. poor and come out millionaires, it will be utilized to probably drive people away from Tillis,” said Chris Weaver, chairman of the Person County GOP. “It’ll be used opportunistically by people opposed to Republicans.”
The impact of Burr’s baggage on Tillis could play a role in determining which party controls the U.S. Senate next year: He is one of four GOP incumbents who Democrats need to unseat in order to take back the majority. Operatives on both sides anticipate that the North Carolina race may wind up as the tightest and most expensive in the country.
So far, national Republicans have evinced little concern that the Burr scandal could envelop Tillis in a meaningful way—and certainly not in the way that a similar stock trading story around Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) is being feared by some Republicans as a deadweight for GOP candidates in Georgia.
Confirming North Carolina Republicans’ worries, however, is how swiftly Democrats have worked to tie the two together. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, the party’s official arm for Senate races, issued a press release last week saying the developments in the Burr case turned up the “heat” on Loeffler, Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), and Tillis. Of the three, Tillis is the only one whose stock transactions are not under scrutiny.
Democratic operatives told The Daily Beast that they don’t view the Burr story as a game-changing handicap for Tillis, but they framed it as one more obstacle for a campaign that can’t afford many more. “Anything that’s a distraction for a campaign can become fatal,” a Democratic operative who works on Senate races told The Daily Beast.
Cal Cunningham’s (D. NC) campaign keeps on gaining more momentum. Cunningham picked up a big endorsement yesterday:
The Human Rights Campaign rolled out a second wave of endorsements ahead of the November election, endorsing the bulk of the vulnerable House Democrats up for re-election this cycle, while also lending its support to five U.S. Senate candidates.
The nation’s largest LGBTQ rights organization threw its backing behind Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), as well as former North Carolina State Sen. Cal Cunningham, who is challenging Sen. Tom Tillis, and former Kansas State Sen. Barbara Bollier, a former moderate Republican who changed her party affiliation to independent and then Democratic, who is running for the open Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts.
Those endorsements come in addition to six others previously announced by HRC, which is seeking to shore up vulnerable Democrats like Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Doug Jones (D-Ala.), as well as U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, a House member seeking an open Senate seat in New Mexico, Jamie Harrison, who is challenging Sen. Lindsey Grahm (R-S.C.), and Mark Kelly, who is challenging Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.).
Let’s keep up the momentum for Cunningham and have the Blue Wave hit North Carolina hard. Click below to donate and get involved with Cunningham and his fellow North Carolina Democrats campaigns: