Cavalry Comes to Save Senate Candidates in North Carolina

Tillis makes a few phone calls to voters along with with phone bank volunteers at the Tillis for US Senate Campaign Headquarters in Cornelius, N.C., on Sunday, May 4, 2014, two days before North Carolina's primary election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Photo)

Less than 24 hours before polls open in North Carolina on Tuesday, high-profile reinforcements are sending support in the state's competitive primary for Senate.  

On Monday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney endorsed the primary's front-runner, North Carolina Speaker Thom Tillis. Tillis must receive more than  40 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff this summer, and national Republicans are helping him get his best shot at ousting the incumbent, Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., in November. If there's a runoff,  Tillis will have to spend two months battling the second place finisher in the primary — either Dr. Greg Brannon or Mark Harris, a pastor — instead of being able to focus on Hagan. "Tomorrow is the first step in regaining a majority in the US Senate," Romney wrote in an email blasted out by the Tillis campaign. "I hope Thom and I can count on your vote tomorrow in this critical primary!" Tillis backed Romney in his 2012 presidential bid. Romney won North Carolina with just more than 50 percent of the vote in 2012.  

On Thursday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also made a last-minute endorsement for Tillis.  

Later on Monday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will be in the Tar Heel state to campaign with Brannon, who has been running second to Tillis in public polling. Paul endorsed Brannon last year, but the Kentuckian has mostly stayed out of the race until this week.  

Brannon and the Harris, who has been running third in public polling, are vying for second place and a spot in the July 15 runoff.  The race is rated Tilts Democrat by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.