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This spring the powers of the Republican Establishment will be put to the test and that will be the backdrop for the Republican Senate primary on Tuesday in North Carolina.

The primary starts a series of contests that will measure whether the traditionally powerful party members – the long time incumbents, the national party officials as well as the fundraising groups – are able to steer their preferred candidate past the primaries. By doing so, winning back some of the advantage from the more tea party-based and populist oriented challenges.

In North Carolina, the stakes are amongst the highest that will be seen during these midterm elections. Republicans see an opportunity against Senator Kay Hagan the incumbent in November.

Hagan, a democrat, is polling close to even with potential challengers from the GOP in this state that is closely divided, where lower turnout during midterm and low approval of the President could tilt the election towards the GOP.

However, that all depends upon the Republicans finding the correct candidate, and not all Republicans agree who that candidate is, making today’s primary important.

Thom Tillis the House Speaker enters the primary on Tuesday as the favorite, but what is up in the air is if he will get the required 40% of Tuesday’s vote to avoid a runoff.

Tillis had broad backing from some powerful groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and has spent millions on advertisements.

His nearest competitor should be Greg Brannon a doctor who wants to be the banner carrier for the tea party during the general election.

Brannon is said to be leaning heavily on the grassroots efforts of his campaign but has some big backing from well-known names such as Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky, himself a favorite for years of the tea party. In addition, Pastor Mark Harris is the social conservative in the primary race.

If a runoff were to occur between any of the three candidates, then party members will start to worry that more time as well as money will be spent on running against one another than on building a campaign against the incumbent Hagan.

Runoffs up the opportunities for upstarts that have less money, as the runoff is not until July and often times draw just the activists that are most committed.