WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite the Club for Growth’s best efforts, North Carolina Congressman and NRCC vice chairman Mark Walker has decided not to challenge incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis in the 2020 primary. Reportedly, top Republicans and Trump campaign forces were concerned a big primary fight in a 2020 swing state was not optimal and that weighed on Walker’s decision. Walker’s mention in the NCGOP/Donor federal probe probably didn’t help his chances either.
According to POLITICO, Walker had met with President Trump last month and was recently trying to secure a second meeting, apparently to secure his blessing.
“After prayerful reflection and consideration, I am confident that my continued service in the House will best help our efforts to reclaim the majority from Nancy Pelosi and advance our shared conservative goals,” Walker told POLITICO in a statement.
“The support from President Trump and conservatives across North Carolina in encouraging me to run for the Senate has been deeply humbling,” he continued. “When I first ran for Congress, I confronted an establishment political machine with considerable resources, power, and connections, but we overcame long odds for an improbable win. While polling in both the primary and general election conveyed we could find similar success in 2020, the most important thing is that we keep North Carolina red for President Trump.” […]”
With Walker bowing out, some might think Tillis is breathing a sigh of relief. Still, the result is now a challenge wholly owned by Garland Tucker who can now focus all the fire on confronting an ‘establishment political machine with considerable resources, power, and connections, and overcome long odds for an improbable win.’
At the same time, the accounts of top Republicans like Mitch McConnell ‘avoiding a bloody primary’ indicates the Establishment GOP in the Swamp is discounting Tucker’s ability to draw blood. Tillis himself is downplaying the Tucker threat.
“Tillis has consistently downplayed concerns about a primary challenge and did so again Wednesday. […] “One thing people learned about me is I’m slow, patient and methodical, and I don’t get caught up in distractions this early in the cycle,” Tillis said.”
Tillis may act like he isn’t his opponent seriously, but Tucker is already taking some of Tillis’ political lifeblood — influential NC campaign donors — by the handfuls. He is also getting touted by the likes of Sean Hannity, and now stands to be the sole beneficiary of the abundance of anti-Tillis sentiment among the Republican base.
Walker acknowledged Tiliis’ rock bottom approval ratings recently:
“Some of the numbers we have seen, the frustration levels from North Carolinians, just to be frank, it is concerning,” Walker said earlier this week, referencing concerns about Tillis’ standing in the state.
Those numbers are also likely putting President Trump in a tough spot. While the likes of Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel are pressuring the president to endorse Tillis, Trump has his own 2020 election to win in the Old North State. As much as the Trump campaign may have wanted to avoid a battle royale primary, they should also want to avoid endorsing one of the most unpopular senators in the country against the type of frustrated, anti-establishment electorate that got him elected in 2016.
With the Trump endorsement still out there, expect to see Tillis matching the president word for word in an effort to win his favor and favorable association among voters. When it comes down it though, Tillis being backed up by McConnell, Rove, and the RNC, makes Tucker one of the most anti-establishment candidates in the country by mere virtue of he’s up against.
Read more from Walker and others at POLITICO.