Tillis won the seat in 2014 by less than 2 percentage points, and he hasn't done much to improve his standing with the voters. Now he's indelibly labeled a Trump lickspittle who attempted a couple of times to look like an independent and ended up just looking weak and confused. A survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling released recently showed his approval at just 26 percent (The Hill).
He's being propped up by Republican "super PACs." Reuters reported than at least $47.4 million is flowing into North Carolina already, but that counts also what Cunningham is getting from Democratic PACs, which is a lot. Both the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball now rate the race a toss-up, which probably means if North Carolina flips to Biden, Tillis is toast.
How nervous is Tillis? So nervous he's robo-calling our landline multiple times, like he thinks he's going to persuade a Democrat as blue as this one to come to his aid? Three debates with Cunningham have been set, but Tillis is actually pressing for even more -- a sign that he knows he's losing: "Usually it’s challengers who press incumbents to debate, hoping for the free exposure of a televised encounter" (Jim Morrill, Charlotte Observer).
Cal has received some criticism for appearing too moderate for the times, partly because his primary opponent Erica Smith was such a progressive bomb-thrower. Before he fully fleshed out his policy positions on his website, I was one of those critical voices last September because I was afraid Cal was slipping into "McCreadyism." I don't worry about that any more: "...many of the candidates in swing states are more liberal than their counterparts just a decade ago. Every Senate candidate in a major race, from Mark Kelly in Arizona to Cal Cunningham in North Carolina, supports a public option to compete with private health insurance plans" (Politico).
Cal has to be careful about corporate money. He has not taken money from corporate PACs, but he has received money from business executives and PACs that receive money from corporations (Politifact). That's maybe not concerning on the face of it, unless he starts trimming his policy positions to suit those donors. Then he'll catch hell.
Cal's launch video was strong and well done. You can watch it on his website. Below is his short victory speech after winning the March primary: