Do people like him? Well, his constituents don't seem to.
I’ll admit, as the number one Hagan hack around here, that when her name was sometimes mentioned for President or VP, I was always lukewarm at best. Well, after this election, that’s pretty much gone out the window anyway. However, this thought was recently brought to my attention
-In his latest column, Rob Christensen bemoaned the lack of political giants from NC. Senator-elect Thom Tillis is actually well-placed to become the next Carolina giant. Tillis dominated the headlines as House Speaker and will probably be an assertive member of the U.S. Senate. He wants to be NRSC chairman, and with his uncanny ability to see his goals come to fruition, it’s possible his political rise won’t end there. Could his name one day appear on a presidential ticket?
The idea of Thom Tillis on a national ticket is as startling as it is disturbing.
Lets deconstruct this argument: Proposition 1: Tillis is well positioned to be an NC political giant because he'll be an assertive Senator.
As House Speaker, he was more or less at the mercy of the more conservative Senate and even let the more radical faction of his House dominate the discourse in Raleigh. The implication here seems to be that this lamb (Tillis) will turn into a lion just because he's changed jobs.
If anything, Tillis will need to keep a low profile. Why? I know his race was going to be close either way, but he was elected with with lowest percentage of the vote of any
NC Senator in history.
He'll almost certainly face an electorate that is more hostile in 2020. If you look at that counties that swung the most against Liddy Dole, for example, they were also generally the ones that had the sharpest turnout increases (e,g. Cumberland and Mecklenburg counties). Tillis won this time in large part because Democrats in places like Charlotte and Greensboro didn't turn out, an advantage he likely won't have in a Presidential year. He could try to make inroads in such areas, but he's entering office with a reputation as incredibly divisive, partisan figure. If he's seen as a vocal Senator who's always trying to pull the debate to the right, I don't think that helps him.
Of course, if Tillis is betting on being the GOP VP in 2020 and forgo reelection, he'll certainly be more 'assertive', but that would be kinda silly considering all the variables between now and then.Proposition 2: Tillis wants to be NRSC Chairman.
I do think this has a decent chance of actually happening. A while ago, I predicted that
if Tillis got elected, he'd be most like Cornyn, who actually led the NRSC in 2010. I can see the cards falling into place for Tillis in 2018: the current chair, Wicker, and the runner-up, Heller will both be defending their own seats in 2018. That would be a good opening for him. Considering all the things Democrats threw at him in this cycle, Tillis certainly would have the appeal of being 'battle tested.'
Tillis usually brags about how in 2010, how he left his job at IBM to recruit legislative candidates and raise money for the state party. Given the environment of 2010, the GOP would have almost certainly taken the NCGA regardless, but Tillis was at the right place at the right time to take credit.
I remember watching an interview with him during the campaign, I forget the outlet, but he was being asked about the political geography of the state. I was impressed with how he held up. He would say things like "Well, Alamance county is Republican, but its not as a red a Randolph or Davidson County." I think that type of knowledge would help Tillis as NRSC Chair. By contrast, when Hagan was asked about geography/coalitions in the state, she often just gave some generic answer.
What makes things cruelly ironic, at least from my perspective, is that 2018 will be a target-rich environment for Senate Republicans, especially if the President is still a Democrat. Tillis will be their to take credit for picking up seats.
Of course, another Senator who recently held his seat was the NRSC chair. We all know how that went.Proposition 3: With a proven ability of seeing his goals come to fruition, Tillis' rise could land him on a national ticket.
I'm really reminded of this piece that was out a while ago
which documented Tillis' quick rise: (keep in mind it was written before the election)
For North Carolina, the 2013 legislative session meant a hard shift to the right. For Thom Tillis, it was a missed opportunity. He could have been the leader who restrained the most divisive legislation while still pursuing his small-government, free-market agenda. Instead, he stopped leading and started running. His attention and his priorities shifted from accomplishing his legislative goals to pursuing his political ones.
In the process, his greatest accomplishment turned into his greatest liability. His ads never mention that he’s speaker of the North Carolina House. He’s the businessman he was before he entered politics or he’s the short order cook or he’s the paperboy learning to make a buck. The only time he mentions his legislative career is to rebut criticism of his legislative record. Meawhile, Tillis seems to be struggling in his race to defeat the vulnerable Hagan. It’s still a close race, but Tillis has never managed to open up a large lead, and the most recent polls consistently show Hagan up by a few points. Nonetheless, Tillis seems more comfortable trying to be something than trying to do something. If he becomes a senator, what will he want to be next?
This seems to support mt hunch that he'll be a relatively low-profile Senator; nationally, I'm not sure how that would play. As the GOP has generally put more of a premium on Governors than Senators in terms of national viability, McCrory could be a better pick (assuming he wins again).
But would Tillis make a good VP candidate?
Its pretty clear that he wouldn't be picked because he's Mr. Congeniality. His gaffes, whether spitting on half the state
or trashing the poor
make that pretty clear.
Also, given the the GOP's need to expand its appeal, I can only see him being picked if the ticket's Presidential is eh, of non-traditional heritage,
as Tillis himself would say.
I'll have to see how he acts as Senator to have a better idea of how he'd play nationally. But after the wave this year, there certainly won't be any shortage of ambitious (and more charismatic) Republicans looking to move up.
Still, its gonna be one hell of sad day in America if this is what Inauguration Day looks like in 2021 or 2025: