North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R) announced on Monday that he will not run for U.S. Senate in 2014, in a surprising move that shakes up the field of challengers to incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan.
“I understand that winning this seat has tremendous implications not only for control of the U.S. Senate in the final two years of the Obama presidency, but also for the direction of our nation,” Berger said in a statement. “However, after careful consideration and consultation with family, friends and supporters, I have decided now is not the time for me to undertake such a campaign.”
Berger had been a top-tier candidate for the Republican nomination; a recent Public Policy Polling survey found Berger leading the field at 13 percent.
There is reason to believe that this is good news for the Republican Party; although Berger would have had a good chance of winning the Republican primary, the same PPP poll found him trailing Senator Hagan by an overwhelming 53 to 36 percent margin. PPP also measured his favorability rating at an unsightly 10 to 33 percent (with 57 percent unsure), and as a public face of the increasingly unpopular state government, he would have been an easy target for attacks from the moderate Hagan.
With Berger out, however, the equally unpopular Speaker of the state House Thom Tillis becomes the prohibitive favorite for the Republican nomination. Polls find Tillis trailing Hagan by similar margins to Berger’s, suggesting that — despite her worrisome approval ratings — Hagan remains likely to win re-election next November.