By now, I expected to see Thom Tillis up on television and burying his primary opponents in feel good ads. Instead, he’s AWOL. So where’s he been?

He’s continuing to skip the GOP forums though he said he can’t wait to debate. If he’s moving around the state, he’s doing a good job of keeping it under wraps. We haven’t seen any articles about his events and his twitter feed is focused on getting petitions signed and insulting Kay Hagan.

In essence, Tillis is still running a general election campaign. He’s ignoring his primary opponents and staying focused on Hagan and his big donors. He probably wants to avoid being pushed too far to the right by getting into a tussling match with the likes of Dr. Greg Brannon.

The contrast with his opponents couldn’t be more stark. Greg Brannon and Mark Harris are running around the state meeting with GOP groups and garnering endorsements from grassroots organizations like Freedomworks. Both of their twitter feeds are full of photos of supporters and events from across the state.

And while Tillis is trying to tie Hagan to Obamacare, Greg Brannon is tying HIM to Obamacare. Brannon’s twitter feed is full of quotes from Tillis saying the program is a good idea but can’t be funded or that there are elements of Obamacare that Tillis likes. Brannon, in contrast, offers the hardline of repeal, repeal, repeal. Brannon’s argument appeals to the emotions of the base while Tillis is trying to keep the moderates he’ll need in the general election.

Maybe he knows something we don’t, but from here it looks like a risky strategy. According the Elon University poll, only 43% of registered Republicans know who he is. With only nine weeks to go, Tillis seems to be banking on swamping GOP primary voters with a TV campaign while  never really engaging the rank-and-file. That’s not a lot of time to make the case for inevitability or garner much more than superficial support.

That strategy works better in a large election with a million or so voters. That’s not the case in the GOP primary. There will probably be less than 500,000 voters in May. Brannon and Harris have been working to build solid bases of support among those voters. Tillis has not. With eight candidates in the race, if Harris or Brannon garners enough money to run a few weeks of television, Tillis will have a hard time reaching the 40% threshold to avoid a runoff.

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >

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