GOP Primary math

by | Jan 22, 2014 | 2014 Elections, Editor's Blog, NC Politics, US Senate | 3 comments

In his bid to become the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, Thom Tillis needs to get to 40% of the vote in May to avoid a precarious runoff. Yesterday, the math got harder when a seventh candidate jumped into the fray. If all seven file, a big “if,” getting to 40% is tough. Here’s a look at some math.

Just by filing, a candidate gets close to 5% of the vote and three of the four lesser funded candidates brings a constituency that could get them to double digits. And, who knows? A savvy, renegade campaign might launch one of them into runoff contention. This is politics.

Heather Grant is the only woman on the ballot. A registered nurse, she can likely get to double digits on gender alone. Bill Flynn has a popular radio show in the Winston-Salem market and his listenership alone gets him close to 10%. And former Shelby mayor Ted Alexander is well-respected, having served on numerous boards and commissions across western North Carolina. His regional appeal should get him near double digits. The new candidate is a retired doctor with no political experience so he will likely get stuck at 5% or so.

If these four lesser-funded candidates get a combined total of 30% of the vote, Greg Brannon and Mark Harris will need to get a combined 30% to keep Tillis below the 40% threshold. Brannon could do well, but so far is squandering his title of Tea Party leader. If he just runs a grassroots effort with no real communications, he’ll probably top out at about 15% and he only gets that because of the Paul endorsement. That means Harris needs at least 15%. His connection to the old Christian coalition and the anti-gay marriage amendment crowd should get him at least to 20% and it could easily get him to 25%. That put’s it into a runoff and Harris would emerge as the anti-Tillis.

Tillis’ best chance to avoid a runoff is to talk somebody out of running. I have to believe that Ted Alexander is getting serious pressure right now. Alexander and Tillis have the same constituency but Alexander is not tainted by time in the legislature. Heather Grant’s probably also getting some warm and fuzzy calls from the speaker. Flynn has little reason to get out. Even if he tanks across the state, he builds his listenership. I don’t know about the new guy, but he’s the least of Tillis’ worries.

If the field stays the same or grows, the odds are on a runoff. And in runoff, all bets are off.


  1. gedanz

    What do you want in a Senator anyway? Do you want someone who is charismatic, cute or a Daddy Big Bucks? Or, do you want/need someone who will be the direct opposite of Kay Hagan? We don’t need another YES MAN or another Narcissist. You want to know what we need? We need a man with principles and Greg Brannon is such a man who got out there early because he knows this country doesn’t have much time left to get things right. We need a man who knows the Constitution so well that he just naturally will know the right thing to do.

    I know many of you out there probably don’t even know what I’m talking about because it has been so long since we’ve seen anyone with the needed qualities. Greg Brannon is a man who fits this bill. I’ve heard Greg speak as early as 18 months ago at the GOP convention. Then he was invited to speak in Hendersonville over a year ago, where he “wowed” 80 or so folks here in Flat Rock with his knowledge and conviction of how the Founders knew what they were doing when they created our Constitution. If you look at everything this country has done wrong to cause the myriad problems we deal with everyday due to our overgrown Government, it is due to ignoring the Constitution. Even Democrats are breaking with Obama over his shirking his Constitutional duties.

  2. Paleotek

    I think you’re spot on. Harris has to get some traction, but if he does there will be a runoff. None of the crowd has shown much charisma so far, it will be interesting to see if any of the other crew comes up with enough money to hit the airwaves. There’s plenty to bludgeon Tillis with, but only if someone can get that message out.

    Speaking of getting messages out, do you think that TV advertising will be less relevant this cycle, Thomas? Lot’s of 20 somethings, 30 somethings, and even 40 somethings don’t get their news from the telly anymore. But I’m guessing the the NC Republican primary base is *significantly* older, whiter, and more conservative than the state at large. As best I can tell, that demographic is still Fox-News-all-the-time. Which means wall-to-wall political ads on Fox? I guess that’s how we’ll be able to tell if anyone is breathing down Tom’s neck.

    • Thomas Mills

      I think television is still the most powerful and dominant medium. That said, I think it will shrink slightly as a percentage of overall campaign spending since campaigns will need to be more web savvy. McAuliffe spent 13% of his budget online. That’s a pretty dramatic increase for most top of the ticket races. I also think you will see some shift from network buys to more cable buys.

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