After Greg Brannon was found liable for misleading investors, I felt certain that his campaign was finished. With such a scarlet letter, no respectable Tea Party leader or group would want to endorse him.
I was wrong.
Today came news that Senator Mike Lee is endorsing Brannon’s campaign. Lee is highly respected in the Tea Party and even among some establishment conservatives. With Lee’s endorsement, it is possible that other Tea Party groups will soon enter the fray.
In my post, I also stated that the jury decision would be unlikely to quell the enthusiasm of those already backing Brannon. That’s proven correct so far. Brannon hasn’t lost any support. If anything, the decision has galvanized their support. The Tea Party crowd sees the whole case against him as some kind of conspiracy, and if investors who trusted Brannon lost money, well, that was just the free market at work. The only effect the jury verdict has, therefore, has been to further harm Brannon’s prospects in the general, should he make it there.
So at this point, it’s still premature to say that Thom Tillis will be the nominee. So forget about my ‘edict’. In the future, I will try to be less rash. But honestly, I did not expect someone like Mike Lee to want to associate himself with Dr. Brannon in the aftermath of the trial.
In the meantime, I’m making a new prediction. It’s not an official ‘edict’ but here’s how I see the race playing out: Tillis will place first in the May 6th primary, but come short of the 40% hurdle. Brannon will place second. This means runoff time – Kay Hagan’s best chance at winning reelection.
Some people are still speculating who the “anti-Tillis” will be: Greg Brannon or Rev. Mark Harris. It’s time to end the speculation. The answer is clearly Greg Brannon. Harris’s supporters are not nearly as passionate, nor as vocal, as Brannon’s. In fact, I’m not even sure Harris has any supporters. Many thought Harris would play well with the large base of social conservatives here in North Carolina. But the contingent of voters who vote solely on issues of gay marriage and abortion is actually not as large as one might expect. Harris might be getting these voters if Brannon was a libertarian in the mold of, say, Michael Beitler, but Brannon has staked out positions on the right against abortion and gay marriage.
In addition, pastors don’t have much history of being elected to federal office. How many members of the clergy do you see running for office? Not many. I actually think Harris’s occupation might be a turn-off to many social conservatives. Even among this group, there’s still a desire to maintain a separation of church and state. A pastor who is running for office makes them squeamish.
Bottom line: There are only two Republicans running who have a chance of winning the nomination. One of them is Thom Tillis, the other one is the guy who was found liable in a civil case last month. And of those two, only one of them can win the general in November. Republicans, take your pick.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.