The first GOP candidate for U.S. Senate is out before the filing period even begins. Radio host Bill Flynn announced that he is folding up his tent and calling it quits. His exit makes it easier for frontrunner and House Speaker Thom Tillis to get through the May primary without a runoff.
With six candidates still in the race, a clean win in May is still a difficult task. However, Flynn had at least some base support in the Winston-Salem area that is now up for grabs. Flynn saw himself as a Tea Party candidate so his absence should, theoretically, help Greg Brannon who has so far owned the Tea Party mantel and has the endorsement of Rand Paul.
Fortunately for Tillis, Brannon has not shown much political savvy. Brannon announced last week that he’s opening field offices around the state but has yet to achieve the name recognition and base of support necessary to make a grassroots campaign work. Instead of spending his money raising his profile, he’s spending it on rent and staff.
In addition to Flynn leaving and Brannon squandering, Mark Harris has been almost absent from the campaign. Finance reports will be out shortly and we’ll see if Harris can put together the money to be competitive. Rumor has it that outside groups are coming into the state to support him. However, if the Reverend can’t raise money, they will likely sit it out.
Finally, Tillis is skipping another forum. He’s obviously trying to position himself as the only game in town, dissing his fellow contenders but also dissing the GOP base. As I’ve said before, it’s a common strategy of heavy favorites, especially incumbents, but Tillis has yet to establish the support necessary to make it work. The success depends, at least partly, on the failure of his opponents to establish themselves as viable.