The North Carolina results are a strong indication that the GOP rank and file is undergoing a shift from prioritizing purity to prizing victory. Just like D.C. strategists, voters watched Akin and Richard Mourdock blow it in 2012 and didn’t want a repeat this year.
Tillis had the backing of blue-chip surrogates like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, and he rounded up endorsements from the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life. The candidate and groups supporting him argued repeatedly that he was the one candidate who could beat Hagan.
“They fear Tillis the most,” says a poster in his Charlotte-area campaign office, with pictures of President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Hagan.
Tillis won with less than a majority, so some caution is warranted in interpreting the returns. We also don’t have exit polls to give us a breakdown of who voted for Tillis and why.
But reports from the ground suggest that the electability argument resonated.