December 4, 2019/Press

Charlotte Observer Editorial: Which Thom Tillis will we get now? We have a hunch.

Raleigh – Senator Tillis’ hometown paper laid bare how the GOP primary causing lasting damage and revealed Tillis as a two-faced politician who “flips like a fish on a dock” and is one of several Republicans that “value their jobs over their country” “even when that comes at the expense of North Carolinians.” The “shift” between “Thom Tillis who pretends to be a moderate” and “the Thom Tillis who pretends to be a conservative” came when he got a GOP primary and after his “unusually clumsy reversal” on the emergency declaration. On top of that, the primary challenge “forced Tillis to spend money early” and forced him to compromise his stated positions “out of fear” – earning him scathing editorials from across the state and causing lasting damage that will follow him into the general election.

Charlotte Observer: Which Thom Tillis will we get now? We have a hunch
By the Editorial Board
December 4, 2019

Key Points:

  • Which Thom Tillis are we about to get now that his Republican primary opponent has dropped out of the 2020 U.S. Senate race in North Carolina?
  • Will we get the Thom Tillis who pretends to be a moderate, or the Thom Tillis who pretends to be a conservative?
  • We’re not sure which is real — and North Carolina voters apparently feel the same, if polls are any indication — but we do know when North Carolina noticed a shift this year. It was right around when Raleigh businessman Garland Tucker entered the U.S. Senate race in May, then tried to run to the right of the incumbent.
  • Tillis would have none of it. Gone was the regular stream of emails from his office that touted the bipartisan legislation Tillis was working on for North Carolinians. Gone were the moments, however fleeting, when Tillis dared to raise an eyebrow at the latest Trump transgression. Instead, Tillis leapt at opportunities to align himself with the president, appearing regularly on Fox News to call the president a “patriot” or laud Trump’s Iran strategy or, laughably, say the president was prepared to hold Turkey accountable for military action against Syria.
  • None of which is politically groundbreaking. For as long as candidates have kissed babies and eaten bad fair food, they’ve made themselves appealing to their party’s base during primaries, then tried to slide back toward the center for general elections. Tillis, however, is uncommonly bad at it. He flips like a fish on a dock, sometimes within weeks, such as when he expressed “grave concerns” in a Februrary op-ed about Trump’s national emergency declaration to fund a wall on the southern border, then voted to support it less than a month later. It was an unusually clumsy reversal, but it was one of several inconsistencies that include his shifting stance on protecting the Robert Mueller investigation and change in focus from bipartisan immigration reform to blasting so-called sanctuary cities. That’s why polls have shown that Tillis is trusted by neither moderates nor conservatives.
  • Which way will he go now? Our guess is that he’ll mostly stay aligned with the president. In part it’s because Tillis has lost many moderates for good with his fuller embrace of Trump. In part it’s because Trump has given Republicans like Tillis little choice. You either express fealty, or you risk a presidential tweet and subsequent backlash from Trump supporters.
  • For Republicans who value their jobs over their country, the choice is clear. It’s also clear that Thom Tillis is one of those Republicans, regardless of what else he pretends to be.


See the other editorials Senator Tillis’ spinelessness has earned: