One of the handful of races that will help determine whether the Republican or the Democratic Party controls the US Senate next year is the campaign in North Carolina, where Senator Thom Tillis (R), completing his first term, is running for reelection against Cal Cunningham (D), a lieutenant colonel in the US Army Reserve.
Tillis has shown some degree of independence from the Trump administration and Republican leadership. For example, in 2017 he co-authored legislation designed to protect the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller from White House interference. But his independence had a cost, early in this election cycle he faced a primary challenge from conservative businessman Garland Tucker, who presented himself as someone who would be a more reliable ally of Trump than Tillis has been.
In time, Tucker dropped out of the race, and Tillis defeated his other less formidable intra-party challengers in a primary in March.
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The distance between Tillis and Trump, highlighted by Tucker, still hurts Tillis. As the cliche goes, Tillis has never managed to “fire up his base.” A recent averaging of poll results by the website RealClearPolitics shows that Cunningham leads him by four points.