June 15, 2020/Press

ICYMI: “Thom Tillis’ Campaign Literally Lifts Ed Gillespie’s Strategy Memo”

Senator Tillis’ campaign “copied large portions” of failed Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie’s strategy memo, the Daily Beast reported Friday, raising “some unfavorable analogies” between one of the most vulnerable Senators in the country and Gillespie’s nine-point loss, “the worst showing for a Republican candidate for governor in Virginia in 30 years.”

Tillis’ campaign, in response, admitted that the “race narratives for both campaigns were similar” — a refreshingly honest comparison between a flailing candidate unable to unite his party who was forced to desperately cling to an unpopular president and alienate independent swing voters in a diversifying state… and Ed Gillespe.

This is the second time Tillis’ memo was in the news – and not for its insights. Roll Call’s Stuart Rothenberg ripped it apart earlier this year, writing that had “no thoughtful analysis” and was “mostly useless.”

“For once, we agree with Senator Tillis — his campaign and Ed Gillespie’s humiliating run that resulted in a nine point loss are similar,” NCDP spokesperson Robert Howard said. “We look forward to helping Senator Tillis follow Gillespie’s footsteps into the private sector this fall.”


Daily Beast: Thom Tillis’ Campaign Literally Lifts Ed Gillespie’s Strategy Memo
By Sam Brodey
June 12, 2020

Key Points:

  • Sen. Thom Tillis’ (R-N.C.) campaign spokesman acknowledged on Friday that he had copied large portions of a general election strategy memo from a similar document he had put together while working on Ed Gillespie’s 2017 bid to be governor of Virginia.
  • The memo, which was released this past March, laid out an optimistic case for Tillis’ chances of re-election in North Carolina following former state senator Cal Cunningham’s emergence from the Democratic primary. But many of the arguments used the same language as a June 2017 memo that Gillespie’s campaign sent out after now-Gov. Ralph Northam emerged from his primary campaign.
  • Tillis’ campaign memo also features multiple sections that are identical to Gillespie’s, right down to the same turns of phrase and political cliches. According to their respective memos, both candidates “begin the general election right where they want to be… firmly in the center-right” and boast “an army of supporters who are ready to win in November and who are ready to work to make that happen.” And for each candidate’s Democratic opponents, their “primary victory was a costly one… both financially and politically.”
  • Nevertheless, the use of the Gillespie memo as a boilerplate for the Tillis campaign’s own election outlook invites some unfavorable analogies. A longtime GOP operative, Gillespie ended up being caught between an increasingly liberal electorate and an increasingly Trump-loving base. He ultimately chose to focus on the latter, closing the campaign by warning about MS-13 gangs taking over Virginia. That embrace of Trumpism resulted in a general election loss of nine points—the worst showing for a Republican candidate for governor in Virginia in 30 years.
  • A similar political landscape now faces Tillis: Democrats are more optimistic about their chances in North Carolina, and the senator’s bid for a second term is likely to be one of the hardest-fought Senate races in the country this November.
  • Though Tillis managed to scare off a serious primary challenge from the right, he’s faced criticism after announcing he’d vote to block the president’s controversial move to use emergency funds to construct the border wall—a position Tillis later reversed under fire. Since then, North Carolina Republicans have questioned why Tillis hasn’t more vocally defended his colleague, Sen. Richard Burr, who is under federal investigation over his stock trading activity amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Read the full report here.