Looks like the National Republican Senatorial Committee got its man in North Carolina. Thom Tillis told reporters yesterday that he plans to file papers with the FEC next week to officially launch his campaign. National Republicans, or at least the McCain-Graham establishment types, believe Tillis matches up with Kay Hagan better than most of the other candidates.

Now, the NRSC’s job is to clear the primary field. We saw Cherie Berry withdraw her name earlier this week and I would imagine we’ll see more get out soon. By the end of summer, I’m betting Tillis only has token primary opposition from one or two of the Tea Party candidates.

I doubt seriously the NRSC is returning Rep. Renee Ellmers calls. Ellmers is an accidental Congresswoman who’s shown no real political savvy or fundraising prowess. While she was a darling of the Tea Party when she ran against Bob Etheridge, they’ve abandoned her and Grover Norquist has put her on his primary target list. She’s got nowhere to turn.

Phil Berger won’t run because, as an astute friend pointed out, he’s the most powerful man in the state, especially with Tillis gone. Gov. Pat McCrory is turning out to be little more than another pretty face who routinely gets his ass handed to him by the legislature. And the next fun will be watching the take-no-prisoners fight to replace Tillis as Speaker. Whoever wins will be a battered rookie who plays second fiddle to the President Pro-tem.

Former Ambassador and Carolina Hurricanes President Jim Cain is the wild card. I imagine that the pressure to keep him out is immense and may be one reason Tillis announced before the end of session. Cain could split the moderate vote and clear the way for a winger to get the nomination. After the likes of Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock and Christine McDonnell, that’s the NRSC’s worst nightmare.

There is already one Tea Partier, Greg Brannon, in the mix and there’s a movement to “draft” Mark Harris, an anti-gay, anti-choice preacher out of Charlotte (I’m pulling for him, by the way). In the past two cycles, we’ve seen Tea Partiers come out of nowhere to take out establishment candidates but without a spoiler like Cain, I don’t think it will happen in North Carolina–though a boy can dream.

The rest of the Congressional delegation is either too inexperienced or not-ready-for primetime (Rep. Foxx and Rep. McHenry). A couple of more nutty folks will probably get in, but unless there’s a big surprise, that’s it for the serious candidates.

I’m hoping Cain gets in and I’m hoping my man Harris gets drafted.



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