National Journal Profiles Tillis’ Unique, Bipartisan COVID-19 Response
May 18th, 2020
Catches Cunningham Telling More Lies
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The National Journal on Friday profiled Senator Thom Tillis and the unique, bipartisan approach that he is taking to protecting the physical and economic health of North Carolina and the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Journal noted how Tillis is:
- “Touting bipartisan credentials from his days as a legislative leader and private-sector consultant. While cases have been leveling off in North Carolina, Tillis has told anyone who will listen that a slower, evidence-based approach is necessary to reopening his home state and the country.”
In the brief appearance Cal Cunningham made in the story, he was caught lying againabout Senator Tillis’ COVID-19 response record, falsely claiming Tillis has not been pressing the Trump administration on testing.
- “’He will not—he will not—ask tough questions of this administration … even appropriately difficult questions about making sure we are driving resources toward [personal protective equipment] and testing,’ Cunningham said. Tillis earlier this year pressed the administration for more testing equipment as cases continued to mount.”
Tillis Treads Cautiously—for Now
In his competitive reelection race, GOP Sen. Thom Tillis is urging a slow reopening and praising his state’s popular Democratic governor.
May 15, 2020
Now, amid the pandemic, he’s touting bipartisan credentials from his days as a legislative leader and private-sector consultant. While cases have been leveling off in North Carolina, Tillis has told anyone who will listen that a slower, evidence-based approach is necessary to reopening his home state and the country, despite the protests of President Trump and other members of his own party.
“I’m really in crisis-response mode now,” Tillis said in an interview this week, “and I can’t let political calculations take me away from what I think are sound strategies for public safety.”
While coronavirus has upended campaigns across the country, it’s especially true in North Carolina. Tillis has aligned himself with Gov. Roy Cooper, a popular Democrat who is also up for reelection, by regularly praising Cooper’s nascent plans for reopening the economy.
“On the whole, I think that he’s done a pretty good job. … I very seldom at a time of crisis would criticize anybody,” Tillis said. “And make no mistake: Governor Cooper and I have vastly different views in a noncrisis environment about the best direction for North Carolina, but we’ll save that debate for when we really feel like we’ve gotten on a positive path for COVID.”
Tillis is in a unique position among his colleagues as the only Republican senator up for reelection this fall with a Democratic governor leading the ballot.
Paul Shumaker, a veteran Republican pollster in North Carolina and Tillis’s general consultant, told National Journal that internal campaign polling shows at least 90 percent of conservative Republicans will vote for the incumbent.“
It’s allowed him through the coronavirus landscape to be a person who is more focused on fixing the problem, working and finding solutions to it, and less on political games and political ideology,” Shumaker said. “… Both sides cannot win North Carolina without building a coalition of suburban, white, independent voters. Those voters tend to be pro-economic, slightly right-of-center voters, but they’re social moderates.”
Tillis’s allies say he’s more suited for a general election, where he can play up his background as a dealmaker from humble origins who can help rebuild the economy. Tillis before his ascension to Raleigh speakership worked as a warehouse clerk and consultant and spent part of his childhood living in a trailer park.
“You’re going to hear us talk a lot about Thom’s bio,” said Jordan Shaw, a Tillis consultant who managed his 2014 race.
Tillis in the meantime is urging the universal use of masks, acknowledging that calling out those who refuse to cover their face in public “is going to offend” at least a tenth of constituents on his regular virtual town halls. Tillis for his part prefers his Carolina Panthers gaiter.
“It’s the same irrational decision that someone makes when you’re about to have a Category 4 hurricane hit the coast and you’re going to stay in a low-lying area,” he said. “Why would you do that? You may get lucky, but you may not.”
“He will not—he will not—ask tough questions of this administration … even appropriately difficult questions about making sure we are driving resources toward [personal protective equipment] and testing,” Cunningham said. Tillis earlier this year pressed the administration for more testing equipment as cases continued to mount.
That’s not to say Tillis isn’t making the rounds. His office told National Journal that more than 360,000 North Carolinians have participated in his 38 virtual town halls on the coronavirus, during which he has answered 450 questions to date. And his campaign last month put five figures behind a digital-advertising effort touting his COVID-19 response efforts, and hundreds more on Facebook blaming China for the pandemic. Among the $3.6 trillion spent by Congress already to fight the virus, $9.5 billion is going to North Carolina, most of which was dedicated to loans for small businesses, according to his campaign.
And Tillis, for his part, is happy to talk about a more nationalized race, having won his first term in 2014 in a similarly competitive contest against the late Sen. Kay Hagan. During the interview, he looped in Cunningham with more polarizing Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“My opponent has very clearly wrapped his arms around a number of some of the most liberal policies that Pelosi and Schumer put forward, and he’s on record,” Tillis said. “So there are a number of things that I’m looking forward to discussing in a debate that provide a very sharp contrast between what I stand for and what Cal Cunningham stands for.”