North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis won the Republican Senate nomination in the Tar Heel State on Tuesday evening, comfortably surpassing the 40 percent threshold to win the nomination. His victory ratifies the aggressive strategy adopted by establishment-oriented outside groups, led by American Crossroads, to spend millions on behalf of favored candidates and attack their rivals when necessary.
North Carolina was the opening battleground in the fight between the Republican Party's two main factions, and it's a sign the establishment's no-holds-barred strategy is paying off. American Crossroads spent $1.6 million on behalf of Tillis, significantly more than the resources of Republican challengers Greg Brannon and Mark Harris. They aired three ads, which each touted Tillis's conservative record and rebutted Democratic attacks against him.
The goal was simple: Increase Tillis's low name identification, knowing his opponents wouldn't have the resources to fight back. In January, the group commissioned a survey from veteran GOP pollster Jan van Lohuizen showing Tillis only tallying 16 percent in the crowded field, with 60 percent of Republican voters unsure of their choice. Just over one-quarter of North Carolina GOP voters were familiar with Tillis. But in the middle of their advertising blitz in late April, another poll commissioned by Crossroads and conducted by van Lohuizen found Tillis's name identification had shot up to 66 percent, with him tallying 38 percent of the primary vote. That same poll showed only about one-third of voters familiar with Brannon and Harris.