#NCSEN: Tillis gives Rove credit for primary win

krAfter the May primary, details started trickling out about how important a multi-million dollar advertising buy from American CrossRoads — Karl Rove’s PAC — was in securing Thom Tillis’ victory. Media reports indicated that even his internal campaign polling showed him suffering in terms of name ID, and hanging close with his lesser-known primary opponents.  Then, Rove’s money came in and Theam Tillis took off.

An article in this month’s Politico Magazine sheds more light on the Rove-Tillis relationship:


Wizard of Oz, or wizard for real? Rove has been counted out of the game so many times it would probably be foolish to write him off now. If anything, he’s had a good 2014 so far. Boosted by the shutdown, Rove has been rallying establishment types around the idea that the fault for 2012 lay mainly with the Tea Partiers on the Republican Party ballot. “We’ve given away at least five seats in the last two election cycles, maybe more, because of poor candidates,” Rove complained at an event in Dallas last year, citing a handful of Tea Partiers who won GOP primaries. “The quality of candidates matters.” In a New York House race this cycle, Crossroads spent $800,000 to help elect newcomer Elise Stefanik, a former Bush administration official, by fiercely attacking Matt Doheny, her GOP primary opponent, as unfit for Congress. After Doheny lost on June 24, he frankly laid the blame on Rove. “The reality is my opponent had a good night, and Karl Rove had a good night,” he said.

And Rove has been quick to take credit where he can. Not long ago, he held a secret donor conference call on which the celebrity guest was Thom Tillis, whose decisive win in the North Carolina GOP primary in May earned him the right to take on a vulnerable Democrat, Sen. Kay Hagan, in a key state in November. Tillis, a once-obscure state House speaker, is now one of Rove’s prize horses in the national money derby; Crossroads spent more than $1.6 million on advertising boosting Tillis’ primary campaign and later unveiled a $3.6 million ad campaign attacking Hagan. “Our advertising was terrific,” Rove declared on the call, and Tillis gave credit to Crossroads for his victory, saying in his smooth drawl that the group’s “contribution can’t be overstated.” […]

14 thoughts on “#NCSEN: Tillis gives Rove credit for primary win

  1. A smug and arrogant out-of-state party boss like Karl Rove buying our Senate nominee for his flunky Tillis? That is insulting to North Carolina Republicans.

    We also remember that Rove has lost 10 of the 12 US Senate races he has been involved in. The main conservative PAC’s, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth, have won most of their races in November, but Rove has lost most of his. Now, who again is to blame that we underperformed in the past couple of elections?

    1. “Now, who again is to blame that we underperformed in the past couple of elections?”

      OK, I’ll bite.

      So is the answer…………the candidates?

      Or is the answer………..their message?

      Or did they run against superior candidates?

      Or is the answer………the voters?

      I give up. Why did we lose?

    2. $5.2 million just from Rove. And now Hagan has been consistently ahead of Tillis in several polls. So much for picking the right candidates.

  2. After the Mississippi election, I realized that the Republican establishment feels that I am a racist. Why would I vote for a RINO like Tillis?

    1. Speaking for myself, if I lived in Mississippi – it’d be very hard to vote for Cochran after watching the establishment resort to asking Democrats to cross over to prop up “their guy”.

      1. You may be being too kind. I don’t like the fact that non-conservative outsiders plus our own leadership (McCrory, Burr, and Pope) maneuvered to prevent the conservative base of our Party from nominating a conservative candidate.

        But even that pales from the outright treason Cochran and Barber executed to keep Mississippi Republicans from nominating their choice.

        I may vote for Tillis and I might not (really depends on how I feel on Election Day) but I would NEVER vote for Cochran.

        And speaking of which and anecdotally speaking, I’ve spoken with some rank and file folks here in NC who are livid about the Mississippi race…I’m concerned that this might further burden the Tillis campaign going forward. In and of itself, I don’t care about Tillis but I DO CARE about crucial down ballot races that might also be impacted by conservative voter turnout, but NCGOP was too shortsighted to think about the consequences of a Tillis nomination.

        1. I think the Cochran race will have nationwide implications. The GOP establishment has not just shot themselves in the foot on this…..they may have shot themselves in the head.

      2. If I lived in Mississippi, I would NOT voted for Cochran after he and his slimy, duplicitous backers painted conservatives as racist.

        Same goes for Ellmers. After calling her constituents racists, she will NEVER get my vote.

  3. NPR was doing one of their exposes on President William McKinley on the Sunday morning program when Northern Republicans were the liberal mantra in our country and Southern Democrats were conservative. They mentioned that William McKinley would be proud of what Karl Rove has done in politics. Pleese!!! I just wish this man would disappear. He has done more to destroy our Republic than many die hard liberals.

  4. I do not think Karl gets all the credit. For whatever reason none of Tillis’ opponents never managed to mount a professional campaign against him. It did not appear to me that Tillis had to work too hard to get the nomination. The attacks on Tillis were rather mild and bland to say the least. Nobody ever came out swinging and if they did it was only a few jabs.

    Kay Hagan and her team will put up a much better fight. Karl Rove may be good but Kay has some mighty fine operatives on her team. The Obama administration will not let Kay lose if they can help it.

    Those opposed to Tillis should have put their efforts into the primary which he won without a runoff………which was a surprise to us all.

    1. 40% nominees will always have trouble uniting a party. We need to go back to requiring a majority to avoid a runoff.

      Tillis and Brannon were essentially tied in the polls in spite of Tillis spending a lot more money, until Karl Rove stepped in with a big buck campaign to buy it for him. I agree that Brannon could have run a better campaign and should have started exposing Tillis’ record much earlier and more forcefully. I also agree that it was Hagan’s attack ads on Tillis that suckered GOP voters into nominating him. I worked the polls at early voting for a local candidate, and the talk I heard of people voting for Tillis, it was Hagan’s attacks on him much more than Rove’s supporting ads that drove them into TIllis’ arms. I suspect, it took the two in tandem to saddle us with Tillis as a nominee.

    2. Tillis won because there were 8 candidates in the primary, one of which was a GOP plant designed to peel away votes from the ‘tea party candidate.’ OK did the same with 7 candidates. It’s a tactic both sides use to secure their power. Why did David Bratt win in VA and knock off RINO Cantor? The smug GOP thought Cantor had it in the bag so they didn’t mount their usual assault. There were 2 candidates in VA! Tillis is compromised. 57% of those who voted in NC in the primary did not vote for him. They voted for someone they thought was more ‘conservative.’ Polls are showing that the 7 who ran against him can beat Hagan in November but Tillis is in a statistical dead heat or losing to her. So much for electable and the best candidate! The Cochran debacle in MS has magnified the chasm between the establishment R and the grassroots. Rs are fleeing the party because the Rs do not hold their own accountable to the principles of their party. Rove is a symptom of the cancer that is eating away at the GOP. They deserve to go the way of the Whigs – the dust bin of history.

  5. I haven’t looked at 2010 or 2012. But what are the records of Repubilcans who won a plurality against a majority of the primary vote in terms of success.

    Probably the most extreme case was Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin he won the primary with 34%. He lost 51% to 46% to probably the most liberal opponent there was. Thompson was a former moderate governor.

    I dont know if there is a pattern but it will be hard for Tillis.

    When the 2010 Dream Act was almost there Kay Hagan voted no purely for political reasons not because she cares about illegal immigration. Tillis as speaker went out of his way to over-ride McCrory’s veto of his immigration bill.

    Republicans managed to lose in North Dakota and Montana. Montana had a spoiler vote. The Democrat won 49-45.

    1. North Dakota in 2012 was a particularly interesting example because it is the only place I know of with a good direct comparison of Rove’s strategies and those of the conservative Club for Growth. ND has one House seat and it is voted on statewide, and that year both the House and Senate seats were open seats with no incumbent. The Senate nominee was a Rove style moderate who talking about being bi-partisan and reaching across the aisle, and heavily backed by Rove. The House candidate was a staunch conservative who had won a contested House primary with the endorsement of the Club for Growth and carried the Club’s support into the November election, which he ran on red meat conservative issues. The House candidate, running a conservative campaign, won handily, while with the exact same set of voters, the Rove-style moderate managed to lose. Too bad, we did not have a Reagan-style conservative from the Club for Growth running for the Senate, too.

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