Riding high after a first-place finish in New Hampshire, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visited North Carolina Friday — just weeks before the state’s primary.

Sanders’ good showing in the first two primary states has led some national Democrats to sound alarm bells that if the self-described Democratic socialist from Vermont is atop the 2020 ticket, it may hurt their party’s chances in key down-ballot races.

If Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, what could that mean for the U.S. Senate match-up in North Carolina?

Catawba College professor and Tar Heel State political observer Michael Bitzer says rather than Sanders, more moderate candidates like Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, or Amy Klobuchar would likely be more competitive in North Carolina and perhaps offer coattails to down-ballot candidates.

“In general, particularly statewide, we still tend to be a center-right state,” Bitzer said.

In recent days, both Cal Cunningham and Erica Smith indicated they plan to back whoever their party’s nominee this fall.

Casting his primary ballot Friday, incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican, took aim at his Democratic rivals, trying to tie them to Sanders.

“If Erica Smith believes people in North Carolina, if Cal Cuningham believes people in North Carolina want Bernie Sanders and his liberal progressive policies in place, then they need to be informed about it,” Tillis said.

Asked if he wants to see Sanders as the Democratic nominee, Tillis said that the particular Democratic candidate does not necessarily matter, arguing that they all have similar policy proposals — proposals that Tillis says are too far left for North Carolina.

However, this is not to say that the top of the ticket dictates everything. There are still some split-ticket voters, meaning down-ballot candidates do have some wiggle room to set themselves apart from the presidential race.  

“That potentially could play well here in North Carolina,” Bitzer said. “Four years ago the state voted for Donald Trump and voted for the Democrat for governor, Roy Cooper.”

While early voting Friday, Cunningham tried to paint himself in that independent light.

“My job is to represent North Carolina, the 10.5 million people that call our state home,” he said. “I’m confident that as a U.S. senator, that I’m going to be a strong, independent voice in Washington — whoever the next president might be.”