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RATINGS CHANGE: Following Cal Cunningham’s Decisive Primary Win, Cook Political Report Moves #NCSEN To Toss-Up

Cal’s campaign had “an impressive pre-primary fundraising boom where he outraised Tillis by 2-to-1” while “multiple public and private polls have shown a competitive race with Tillis in the danger zone for an incumbent”

Following Army veteran Cal Cunningham’s decisive 22-point victory in his primary this week despite attempted meddling from Mitch McConnell’s Super PAC, Cook Political Report today moved the North Carolina Senate race from Leans Republican to Toss Up.

The major ratings change follows “an impressive pre-primary fundraising boom where [Cunningham] outraised Tillis by 2-to-1” and the fact that “multiple public and private polls have shown a competitive race with Tillis in the danger zone for an incumbent.” In the past week, Cal has led Tillis by five points in polls from NBC/Marist and PPP. Cook Political also noted that “Tillis has struggled to regain his footing among conservatives” and “Democrats are encouraged that primary turnout was up over 2016.”

Every major nonpartisan election analyst – including Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball – has now shifted this race to a Toss Up rating since Cal launched his campaign last year.

Read more about why Tillis is increasingly vulnerable in November:

Cook Political Report: Super Tuesday Senate Takeaways: North Carolina Moves to Toss Up

By Jessica Taylor

March 6, 2020

Key Points: 

  • This primary had a lot of drama at the end, with the Senate Leadership Fund admitting they were behind a mysterious super PAC that spent $2.5 million on ads designed to boost state Sen. Erica Smith and ding Cunningham for not being progressive enough.
  • However, Cunningham ended up winning the primary easily by 22 points, 57%-35%…
  • It’s a reversal from 10 years ago when the Iraq and Afghanistan veteran had also been endorsed by the DSCC but fell short in the primary, and Democrats were going to make sure they got the candidate they believed to be strongest in a general election against Tillis over the finish line. However, those positive ads also raised Cunningham’s name ID in the state, and he had an impressive pre-primary fundraising boom where he outraised Tillis by 2-to-1.
  • Furthermore, multiple public and private polls have shown a competitive race with Tillis in the danger zone for an incumbent. An NBC/Marist poll last week gave Cunningham a 48%-43% edge among registered voters, and winning independent voters 48%-39%. An East Carolina poll gave Tillis a 44%-42% edge, a statistical tie.
  • The bottom line is that Tillis has struggled to regain his footing among conservatives in the state after starting to cross Trump last year on emergency funding for the border wall before relenting to side with the president.
  • North Carolina is going to be a closely-fought race at the presidential level too and has a competitive governor’s race. This Senate contest could well end up deciding the balance of power in the chamber, and Democrats are encouraged that primary turnout was up over 2016.
  • We are moving this race from Lean Republican to Toss Up.

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