U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis was swept into office amid a Republican wave in a race that was his party’s top priority in the 2014 cycle.

Neither factor is likely to be there for Tillis in 2020. Should he run for re-election, the Cornelius Republican might in fact face the exact opposite scenario.

Democrats are hoping to build on their electoral success from 2018. And North Carolina’s Senate race is likely to be one of the national party’s top targets.

The 2014 race was one of the most expensive in state history.

The contest against then-U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan topped $100 million in total spending, the highest total in the United States that year, with much of it coming from outside groups.

At the time, Democrats held control of the Senate and had to defend 21 total seats. Remember, Hagan defeated incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole in the 2008 wave election that put President Obama into office. Republicans had long considered the seat a top candidate to return to their column, but the polls showed North Carolina leaning blue.

Outside money poured in to support Tillis, then the speaker of the N.C. House. Tillis had the support of the nation’s best-funded super PAC not dedicated to Mitch McConnell.

To be sure, Hagan got about $35 million from outside groups. But Democrats were more concerned with seats in Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, Arkansas, Montana and South Dakota — all of which flipped red. Tillis’s victory was considered more of a surprise.

The exact opposite is true for 2020

Republicans will be defending a total of 22 seats of their U.S. Senate majority in 2020, compared to just 12 by Democrats. And with Trump on the ballot, you can expect Democrats to make another big push.

Tillis is considered to be vulnerable this year, but so are a number of Senate Republicans. Expect the national GOP to spend time on Colorado, Maine, Arizona, Tennessee and Arkansas. Meanwhile, the state could very well lean red — but run into an election day surprise.

Tillis hasn’t declared for 2020

But expect him to run again. The state Republican Party doesn’t really have any other compelling candidates, and Tillis is the best chance to keep the seat.

A tough national map won’t help him.

Cover photo of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis by Gage Skidmore via Flickr (Creative Commons)


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