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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 6th, 2014
05:38 PM ET

GOP establishment looks nervously at North Carolina Senate primary

Raleigh, North Carolina (CNN) - For a Republican establishment still spooked by the ghosts of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock - grassroots-backed conservatives who threw away winnable Senate races in recent elections with tone-deaf remarks about abortion - Tuesday can't come soon enough.

In North Carolina, Republicans are watching closely to see if Thom Tillis, the state House speaker and maybe the party's best bet to unseat endangered Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan this November, can capture 40% of the vote in Tuesday's GOP Senate primary.

If he does, Tillis will become the party's Senate nominee, and Washington Republicans will breathe a little easier knowing they've dodged a long and expensive runoff battle between Tillis, the consensus frontrunner, and a flame-throwing conservative rival. Perhaps more importantly, Republicans will have picked a Senate candidate who doesn't immediately jeopardize their chances of defeating Hagan, whose approval ratings are dangerously low, and flipping a crucial swing state Senate seat into GOP hands.

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