There’s been quite a bit of suspicion for some time that Charlotte pastor Mark Harris’ Senate campaign was merely a stalking horse to peel Tea Party votes away from Greg Brannon. Harris labels himself a conservative — like Thom Tillis does. But he’s named former congressman, NCGOP chairman and Ripon Society fanboy Robin Hayes as his campaign chairman. Hayes’ longtime political strategist, Tom Perdue, has also come aboard the Harris effort.
Observers have been quick to note how — in forums and other public events — Harris and his supporters are quick to criticize Tea party favorite Brannon, but are silent on Thom Tillis, the favorite of Establishment, left-of-center Republicans. In some forums, Harris has spoken in defense of Tillis on toll roads and other aspects of the General Assembly’s agenda.
But things appear to be changing on that front. I’ve seen polling from pros — with campaigns and unaffiliated — suggesting that Harris appears to be getting a good chunk of votes in Tillis’ Charlotte-area home base. Perdue, the Harris strategist, has upped the ante a little bit with some crowing to Roll Call, the DC-based “newspaper of Capitol Hill”:
[…] “Our goal, our job, is to get in the runoff,” said Republican consultant Tom Perdue, who is working for Mark Harris, a Mike Huckabee-endorsed, conservative Baptist pastor. “When we say we think we can win, that’s all we’re saying, is we think we can get into the runoff.”
Perdue, a Georgia-based consultant who was once retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ top political operative, said he joined the Harris campaign because he believed there was a window for a true conservative against the “slick,” “establishment” Tillis.
“There is no hands-down front-runner,” Perdue said. “If he were going to have been the hands-down winner, he would have had most of the House members supporting him by now … if he were really going to be the hands-down winner, he would have raised a lot more money last year. And if he were going to be the front-runner, you wouldn’t see six or seven people jumping into this race.” […]