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Thom Tillis has now become the 2020 case study of GOP subservience. Earlier this week, a New York Times editorial made an example out of Tillis, saying “Republicans who’ve dipped a toe in anti-Trump waters have quickly recoiled.”
Last year, just three weeks after writing an op-ed standing up to the president on the national emergency vote, Tillis quickly reversed course when local Republicans began shopping a Senate run for Rep. Mark Walker.
Tillis’ epic flip-flop “was a wake-up call for everyone” and continues to be the personification of Republicans who surrender their principals to fall in line with the president.
Even though he ultimately sided with his party on the declaration of a national emergency, Morning Consult data gathered after the vote indicated that people from all political stripes can’t trust him, “with moderates questioning his independence from the president and conservatives questioning his loyalty.”
That’s why Tillis was forced to spend more than $700,000 on ads to defend himself and fend off then-primary challenger Garland Tucker. In another blow to Tillis’ conservative credibility, Tucker left the race without endorsing him, saying Tillis was trying to “whitewash his record of flip-flops.”
After his year of puppetry in 2019, it’s clear that in 2020, voters still don’t know who the real Thom Tillis is or what he stands for.
Read the full New York Times editorial below.
New York Times: A Primary From the Right? Not in Trump’s G.O.P.
Editorial Board – January 28, 2020
Primaries like Mr. Fitzpatrick’s are scarce in large part because G.O.P. lawmakers know precisely how to avoid them. In the last few years, 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.’”
The result is that the National Republican Congressional Committee is no longer consumed by the once inevitable task of neutralizing serious challenges to its members from the right. According to a G.O.P. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private discussions, apart from Mr. Fitzpatrick’s race, only a few primaries this cycle have been deemed cause for concern.
“The president’s monopoly on Republican voters is more powerful than any ideological or stylistic divide,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor of Inside Elections and an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call. “There might be interest in challenging an incumbent from the right or as an outsider, but as long as that member stays close to Trump, there just isn’t enough oxygen to get the job done.”