North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said state House Speaker Thom Tillis is the best GOP bet to unseat embattled Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November.
"I think Tillis has the best chance to win a general election," the Republican governor told The Washington Post
"From a political perspective, there's no doubt in my mind that Tillis has the best chance to win in the general election. I think you can see that in the attacks from D.C. going after Tillis."
Although McCrory has not endorsed a candidate, his statement comes a little more than a month before the GOP primary on May 6.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has endorsed Tillis’ main rival, tea party candidate Greg Brannon, an obstetrician. A recent survey
by Public Poling Policy revealed that the pair are locked in a close race.
Brannon’s campaign manager, Reilly O'Neill, quickly criticized McCrory’s comments, saying that Hagan would be thrilled by the chance to go up against Tillis.
"Basing electability on which candidate is attacked most is foolish," O’Neill said, according to the Post. "The same strategy of using attacks to boost the weakest general election opponent was successfully used by Claire McCaskill against Todd Akin in Missouri.
"Like Todd Akin, Thom Tillis repeatedly polls at the back of the Republican field when matched up against Hagan. Senator Hagan must be 'chomping at the bit' to go up against Thom Tillis."
In 2012, McCaskill trounced Akin to win re-election as senator.
Heather Grant, another GOP candidate in the primary, also slammed McCrory’s statement, according to the Charlotte Observer
. "I’m disappointed that the governor would make such a statement without meeting with each and every candidate," she said.
Republican strategist and former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove has thrown his support behind Tillis, with Rove’s super PAC American Crossroads recently launching a $1.1 million ad campaign touting the candidate’s GOP qualities.
But Tillis has also come under fire himself in a series of attacks ads from Hagan’s campaign and a Democratic super PAC, which have tied him to the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, according to the Observer.
The Koch siblings’ super PAC, Americans for Prosperity, is spending $8.2 million on TV ads targeting Hagan, who is thought to be vulnerable
in the midterm elections in large part because of her outspoken support for Obamacare.
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