January 28, 2020/Press

“You Saw What Happened to Tillis”: Tillis Is the 2020 Poster Child for Republicans’ Losing their Spine to Trump

“Tillis was a wake-up call for everyone” – Republican strategist


Senator Tillis is the 2020 case study for Republicans trading their principles and positions for “carte blanche offerings of complete and total fealty to the president,” according to a new report in the New York Times, with Republicans strategists warning each other to “be careful; you saw what happened to Tillis.” From the NYT:

Republicans who’ve dipped a toe in anti-Trump waters have quickly recoiled, as though a cottonmouth lurked just below the surface. Take Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina: On Feb. 25, 2019, he wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post that while he supported the president’s “vision on border security,” he would “vote against” the declaration of a national emergency.

Local Republican leaders excoriated Mr. Tillis for putting himself “in opposition to the president.” They approached Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina’s Sixth District about a primary challenge, and the Club for Growth, a conservative political action group, commissioned a poll on Mr. Walker and other state Republicans’ chances against the senator.

Not three weeks after his op-ed published, Mr. Tillis reversed course and voted for the national emergency. In June, Mr. Walker announced he would not pursue a primary.

“Tillis was a wake-up call for everyone,” said Tyler Sandberg, a Republican strategist. “If you disagreed with something the president did, it was like, ‘Be careful; you saw what happened to Tillis.’”

Tillis has spent his entire reelection campaign getting humiliated nationally and in-state for his “Olympic gold flip flop.” The Washington Post named his op-ed one of their favorites of 2019 because it provided “the kind of distilled proof one rarely gets in the real world of how the Republican Party has abandoned principle for expediency and political survival in the Trump era.

Coverage in North Carolina has been equally humiliating for Tillis, with editorial boards saying he “flips like a fish on a dock, sometimes within weeks,” “meekly acquiesced in the money grab,” “quakes at every Trump tweet,” and “has abandoned the state he represents for the president he thinks he needs.” Voters haven’t held back either, with one military spouse asking Tillis to his face, “How can we trust you?” and a GOP primary voter noting that “a snake don’t turn into a puppy just because he puts a flea collar on.”