Despite past Trump opposition, recent pivot rightward earned first-term senator the president’s endorsement…
The firm issued polling data on all 100 senators and found that Tillis has the lowest approval rating of all of them, at just 33 percent.
This means North Carolina‘s first-term senator has an even lower approval rating than scandal-plagued Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ and “accidental” Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., a liberal who occupies a seat in a deep red state after he scored an upset against a disastrous Republican candidate.
Tillis, first elected to the Senate in 2014, is up for re-election next year in the swing state, and his race is expected to be one of the most competitive in the nation.
Several Democrats have already declared against him, including state Sen. Erica Smith, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham.
Cunningham appears to be the favorite of the Democratic establishment and raised over $500,000 in the first quarter of his candidacy.
The Tar Heel State’s junior senator also has a primary of his own. Millionaire businessman Garland Tucker is seeking to challenge Tillis from the Right and has already taken to the airwaves to get his message out to voters.
In part, Tillis’s poor approval rating may be attributed to weakness with Republican voters, who believe he has been insufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump.
Tillis introduced legislation protecting the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has jokingly stated that he is proud to be a “RINO” (which he termed a “Republican in Need of Outcomes”), and published an op-ed in which he came out against the president’s emergency declaration on the border. He later reversed course and voted with Trump, but only after an outcry from the Republican base.
While Tillis would appear to be highly vulnerable to a conservative challenger, Tucker is an imperfect vessel for the base’s fury at the GOP establishment, with problems of his own.
Tucker opposed Trump when he ran in 2016, insisting that he was not a true conservative. Eventually, he decided to vote for the “very flawed” Trump because of “negative reasoning”—his view that Hillary Clinton would be even worse.
Now, Tucker says he’s glad to have misjudged Trump.
And Tillis? Since Tucker’s entry into the race, he’s gone full-blown MAGA, refusing to let any light between himself and the president. He’s now one of Trump’s staunchest defenders and takes every opportunity to embrace his policies.
Perhaps the strategy has paid off. Last month, Tillis pulled off a major victory when the president endorsed him in a tweet.
Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina has really stepped up to the plate. Thom is tough on Crime, Strong on the Border and fights hard against Illegal Immigration. He loves our Military, our Vets and our great Second Amendment. I give Thom my Full and Total Endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2019
And there’s also a silver lining for Tillis in the Morning Consult poll itself. While he does have the lowest approval rating, his disapproval rating is 35 percent, making for a net approval of only -2. For the most part, Tillis is unknown.
With a key Senate seat at stake next year, chances are that Tillis will be making himself known to a lot more North Carolinians. On the campaign trail, will they see the MAGA convert and vociferous Trump backer? Or the establishment-friendly “Republican in Need of Outcomes”? That remains to be seen.