With election day being just a few days away, a couple of things have become crystal clear about the closely-watched North Carolina Senate race between Sen. Thom Tillis (R) and his Democratic opponent and former state senator Cal Cunningham.

For starters, the race has tightened up considerably since news of Army Reservist Cunningham’s affair with the wife of a wounded Army veteran broke in early October. And by “tightened up,” I mean it’s so close that two recent polls now show the race in a tie. Other polls show either razor-thin leads for either candidate or leads that are mostly within the MOE. Here are screen grabs I took today and Sunday of the latest numbers:

The other thing that’s clear about this race is that the affair scandal has undoubtedly contributed to Cunningham losing momentum. Though media outlets here have been surprisingly brutal towards the married father of two over his repeated dodging of formal interview requests, they’ve been reluctant to make a correlation between the affair scandal and the Senate race becoming much closer down the homestretch.

However, CBS News affiliate WNCN broke that mold in a report they filed Tuesday in which they interviewed an N.C. State professor and political analyst who said the quiet part about loud about how the affair news had obviously hurt Cunningham with North Carolina voters:

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.”

As I previously noted, this scandal was bound to take its toll on Cunningham’s campaign at some point down the line, even if polling didn’t reflect it.

From start to finish, Cunningham’s campaign has been about portraying himself as this down-home “family man, character matters, man of honor”-type guy. His ads almost always note that he served in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11. Some of the ads even end with him saying, “in North Carolina, the truth still matters.”

“Character counts/the truth matters” have been central themes for how he’s run his race. Yet, when news breaks that point to how his campaign persona has essentially been a sham, all of a sudden, his personal life is off-limits for discussion?

That is not how it works, and – at least in the polling, anyway – North Carolina voters are letting him know it. According to one WRAL/Survey USA poll taken a couple of weeks ago, this is especially true of female and senior voters.

Cunningham had at least one extramarital affair, possibly two, going on in the midst of a campaign being run in a state that is home to numerous military installations as well as a not-so-small-amount of voters who are still deeply religious. Millions of voters here think honoring your marital vows, and military oaths still mean something.

This is something that even Gov. Roy Cooper (D) seems to understand if his hot mic comments to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden about dragging Cunningham over the finish line and how “frustrating” the situation has become are any indication.

The below clip perhaps best sums up the state of Cunningham’s campaign as election day approaches. In it, the interviewer notes how Cunningham “said he would be here, [but] did not show up”:

If Cunningham keeps this up, he might find that the voters he needs to defeat Tillis next week won’t show up, either.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —

 

 
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