Here’s the math on how Thom Tillis can avoid a runoff

This morning, we educated the masses on the importance of Republican Thom Tillis getting to 40 percent (plus one) in today's North Carolina GOP Senate primary. In short, he (and the national GOP) would much prefer to avoid a two-person runoff against a tea party-aligned candidate, and he needs that percentage of the vote to do so.

Which begs the question: How do we know whether he's accomplishing that?

That's where The Fix comes in. For those following tonight's results in real time, we have broken down approximately how Tillis will need to do in each county in North Carolina.

To do so, we look at now-Gov. Pat McCrory's (R) 2008 gubernatorial primary,which just happens to give us a pretty good analogy.

The former Charlotte mayor, like Tillis, hails from Mecklenburg County, the largest in the state. Like Tillis, he was also the GOP establishment favorite running against some candidates who tried to outflank him on the right. For Tillis, that's Greg Brannon and pastor Mark Harris; for McCrory, it was state Sen. Fred Smith.

All of which is to say the 2008 primary results are pretty instructive when it comes to about where Tillis needs to be as the numbers roll in tonight.

Here's the map for the McCrory-Smith race six years ago. You'll note that Smith (the brown counties) did much better in eastern and western North Carolina, while McCrory excelled in the Charlotte area (including neighboring Gaston and Union counties) and the more of the central part of the state.

Courtesy: North Carolina Board of Elections
Courtesy: North Carolina Board of Elections

Overall, McCrory avoided a runoff with 46.1 percent of the vote -- 6.1 percent clear of the threshold. So we subtracted six points from his share of the vote in each county to give you a reasonable facsimile of the path to victory for Tillis.

Of course, this is hardly a perfect measure. Plenty of things have changed in North Carolina since 2008, and Tillis's race isn't exactly the same as McCrory's. But for those following tonight's returns, this should help.

If you were to watch one county tonight, keep an eye on Wake County (home to Raleigh). If Tillis can get 40 percent or more there (McCrory got slightly less than that), he'll probably be in good shape.

(The 10 biggest counties are bolded, including Tillis's home of Mecklenburg County. And here are the county-by-county results for comparison's sake.)

County McCrory Tillis goal
Alamance 44.0% 38.0%
Alexander 62.7% 56.7%
Alleghany 39.9% 33.9%
Anson 67.2% 61.2%
Ashe 53.2% 47.2%
Avery 46.7% 40.7%
Beaufort 17.2% 11.2%
Bertie 16.4% 10.4%
Bladen 25.8% 19.8%
Brunswick 33.5% 27.5%
Buncombe 19.7% 13.7%
Burke 57.0% 51.0%
Cabarrus 71.8% 65.8%
Caldwell 61.6% 55.6%
Camden 8.6% 2.6%
Carteret 27.5% 21.5%
Caswell 38.3% 32.3%
Catawba 63.7% 57.7%
Chatham 42.3% 36.3%
Cherokee 12.6% 6.6%
Chowan 13.0% 7.0%
Clay 10.8% 4.8%
Cleveland 62.7% 56.7%
Columbus 23.5% 17.5%
Craven 20.0% 14.0%
Cumberland 35.5% 29.5%
Currituck 13.6% 7.6%
Dare 11.0% 5.0%
Davidson 45.2% 39.2%
Davie 40.3% 34.3%
Duplin 21.6% 15.6%
Durham 41.7% 35.7%
Edgecombe 33.2% 27.2%
Forsyth 44.1% 38.1%
Franklin 35.5% 29.5%
Gaston 74.4% 68.4%
Gates 12.5% 6.5%
Graham 13.1% 7.1%
Granville 40.0% 34.0%
Greene 22.9% 16.9%
Guilford 52.5% 46.5%
Halifax 36.2% 30.2%
Harnett 30.7% 24.7%
Haywood 22.2% 16.2%
Henderson 17.9% 11.9%
Hertford 19.9% 13.9%
Hoke 33.8% 27.8%
Hyde 14.8% 8.8%
Iredell 72.3% 66.3%
Jackson 19.3% 13.3%
Johnston 25.3% 19.3%
Jones 14.5% 8.5%
Lee 39.2% 33.2%
Lenoir 23.4% 17.4%
Lincoln 71.7% 65.7%
Macon 14.9% 8.9%
Madison 20.3% 14.3%
Martin 20.4% 14.4%
McDowell 26.9% 20.9%
Mecklenburg 79.6% 73.6%
Mitchell 23.7% 17.7%
Montgomery 60.0% 54.0%
Moore 51.6% 45.6%
Nash 40.5% 34.5%
New Hanover 33.9% 27.9%
Northampton 25.1% 19.1%
Onslow 23.5% 17.5%
Orange 39.3% 33.3%
Pamlico 17.1% 11.1%
Pasquotank 9.4% 3.4%
Pender 27.1% 21.1%
Perquimans 11.2% 5.2%
Person 40.0% 34.0%
Pitt 40.7% 34.7%
Polk 15.3% 9.3%
Randolph 39.9% 33.9%
Richmond 59.4% 53.4%
Robeson 26.2% 20.2%
Rockingham 40.6% 34.6%
Rowan 58.9% 52.9%
Rutherford 31.4% 25.4%
Sampson 27.1% 21.1%
Scotland 24.1% 18.1%
Stanly 75.3% 69.3%
Stokes 36.8% 30.8%
Surry 39.4% 33.4%
Swain 14.9% 8.9%
Transylvania 17.5% 11.5%
Tyrrell 9.5% 3.5%
Union 74.4% 68.4%
Vance 36.4% 30.4%
Wake 38.7% 32.7%
Warren 34.3% 28.3%
Washington 13.0% 7.0%
Watauga 47.2% 41.2%
Wayne 21.5% 15.5%
Wilkes 43.4% 37.4%
Wilson 36.4% 30.4%
Yadkin 41.8% 35.8%
Yancey 12.2% 6.2%
Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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