In wake of scandal, Cunningham sees lead over Tillis shrink in final days of campaign

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With one week until the election, polling shows North Carolina’s closely watched Senate race tightening. 

In early October, the RealClearPolitics average of polling in the race showed Democrat Cal Cunningham leading incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis (R) by five to six percentage points.

That’s dropped to 1.8 points on average in the final days of the campaign.  

“There has been an erosion in Cunningham’s numbers,” said Dr. Andrew Taylor, political analyst at N.C. State University. “It’s hard to attribute it to much other than the scandal surrounding Cunningham.” 

Control of the U.S. Senate could hinge on which candidate wins in North Carolina.  

Tillis campaigned Tuesday with Vice President Mike Pence, calling attention to Cunningham’s affair which he apologized for earlier this month.  

“I’m here with my girlfriend, who also happens to be my wife,” Tillis told a crowd of supporters. 

He’s focused on the issue since the news of the affair first broke at the beginning of the month.

National Republican groups also have invested heavily in North Carolina in the final weeks of the campaign to run ads attacking Cunningham. 

“Now we know he’s not been truthful to his family and to the voters, and he’s not been honorable to the very uniform that he wears,” said Tillis, referring to the investigation underway by the U.S. Army Reserves.

Cunningham is a lieutenant colonel who volunteered to serve following the 9/11 attacks. 

His campaign is trying to highlight his military service once again by running new ads this week reminding voters of that. 

While Cunningham has resumed in-person campaigning, he has largely avoided taking questions from reporters.

Previous: ‘I am deeply sorry’ – Cal Cunningham apologizes amid growing controversy

His last press conference was Oct. 9, during which he declined to say if there have been any additional affairs. His campaign has not been releasing his schedule in advance of campaign events. 

He criticized Tillis for voting Monday to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, saying in a statement, “By voting to confirm a judge who has expressed open hostility to the Affordable Care Act two weeks before the ACA is on the court docket, Senator Tillis is striving to do through the courts what he failed to do in the Senate – take away health care from North Carolinians, even now that we’re in a pandemic.” 

Tillis called Barrett “incredibly qualified” and criticized Democrats who’ve discussed adding justices to the Supreme Court if they win control of Congress.  

Cunningham also criticized Tillis and Republican leaders in the Senate for leaving Washington without passing another COVID-19 relief bill. 

Mark Show, who works as a stagehand in Charlotte, said he’s concerned about running out of unemployment benefits by the end of the year. He expects his industry to be the last where people get back to working a full schedule. 

“I find it very disconcerting. To me, they are coming across as they don’t care about their constituency,” he said. “The Senate recessed, like, oh we don’t care about the working man and woman in this country. They’re not showing us any care at all.” 

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