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Distrust in Senator Thom Tillis is widespread and won’t seem to go away. And the damage of Garland Tucker’s Senate bid is done, having forced Thom Tillis to spend $700,000 to defend himself on air, while elevating attacks on Tillis’ conservative credentials.
While Tillis’ team claimed Monday that its potential primary challenge was behind them, Rep. Mark Walker soon forced Tillis to begin rescheduling TV advertisements for January and February by exploring again a primary challenge against Tillis.
Walker, who has narrowed his options for next year to include a primary challenge to Tillis, has been the darling of the conservative Club For Growth and its “growing belief that Tillis is vulnerable — both in the primary and general elections,” especially when there is “a strong conservative alternative.”
But the lingering primary challenge to Thom Tillis is really a symptom of a much larger problem for Tillis — one that will persist regardless of whether Tillis faces a challenge in his primary — “voters of all ideological stripes simply don’t trust Tillis.”
Thom Tillis “pleases nobody” according to one elections forecaster, “conservatives aren’t happy with him. Democrats aren’t happy with him.” Here is a sampling:
“A snake don’t turn into a puppy just because he puts a flea collar on.” – Terri Gore, Whiteville, North Carolina
“I won’t be voting for him…He flip-flopped on a number of issues at the last second to save his own butt to keep from getting voted out. He switched his opinions, he doesn’t support Trump. He’s a fair-weather friend.” – Jason Ferree, Archdale, NC
“I don’t like Thom Tillis, he’s wishy-washy… We’ll vote for a conservative, but it probably won’t be him.” – Diana Ezzell, Marshville, NC
“Don’t like him.” – Heather Lipchak, Yanceyville, NC
The Charlotte Observer put a fine point on this growing distrust yesterday in a scathing editorial that said, “We’re not sure which is real — and North Carolina voters apparently feel the same, if polls are any indication.”
Read more below.
Charlotte Observer: Which Thom Tillis will we get now? We have a hunch
By The Editorial Board – December 4, 2019
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 is troubled by at least some of President Donald Trump’s erratic behavior and policies, or will we get the Tillis who is reluctant to say a bad word regardless of what the president says or does — even when that comes at the expense of North Carolinians?
Will we get the Thom Tillis who’s proud to work across the aisle with Democrats on bipartisan legislation, or will we get the Tillis who says Democrats are ignoring their legislative duties and trying to reverse the 2016 election with impeachment hearings?
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.