DAVIDSON, N.C. (AP) — The feisty personalities and anti-establishment fervor that fed tea party challenges in recent Republican U.S. Senate primaries are largely missing this year.
That's troubling for Democrats who want Republicans to nominate nonmainstream candidates with limited appeal.
In North Carolina, a once-promising clash between an establishment Republican and two harder-right rivals has yet to catch fire.
The May 6 winner will challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November.
North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis is the GOP establishment's favorite. Opponents from the tea party and the Christian right did little to distinguish themselves from him in two televised debates last week.
Tillis also has more campaign money.
The debates were perhaps the candidates' best chance to captivate voters before the primary.
Hagan says November's voters will reject Tillis' conservative legislative record.