Thom Tillis and his Tea Party problem

by | Feb 3, 2014 | 2014 Elections, Editor's Blog, NC Politics, US Senate | 2 comments

No wonder Thom Tillis is avoiding all those forums. While he may be angering his base, he’s avoiding the crazy topics like whether or not to impeach Obama. Tillis understands that taking a stand to impeach the president makes him unelectable in the general election and taking a stand against impeachment in the primary could hurt him with GOP primary voters. It’s quite the conundrum.

And Tillis’s decision to avoid engaging his primary opponents underscores the Republicans’ broader electability problem. The GOP base is increasingly out of sync with the overall electorate. Their priorities are Obamacentric. They want to impeach the president and repeal Obamacare. They are still sure that the president is coming after their guns and they are howling over Obama’s State of the Union promise to use executive orders if Congress isn’t willing to act.

The majority of the American public, on the other hand, is focused on more mundane things like getting the country back to work and dealing with income inequality. While they may say they don’t like Obamacare people still overwhelmingly wanted health care reform. In 2007, before Obama took office, 69% of the people said that the health care system was in crisis or had major problems and the issue followed only the Iraq War in importance to voters. In essence, the people want Congress to do stuff.

In contrast, the Republican base is pretty satisfied with gridlock. In their view, government is a necessary evil and the less of it the better. For them, the do-nothing Congress was far better than a Congress passing laws and making policies that might change the status quo.

And this is the dilemma facing Speaker Tillis. If he engages the GOP base, he will almost certainly have to take positions on issues that could kill his bid, either by losing the base or losing the middle. If he avoids the base, he may lose their trust and they might stay home in November if he becomes the GOP nominee.


  1. Steve Harrison

    Yeah, I may have spoken too soon about the piece of toast formerly known as Greg Brannon…

  2. Steve Harrison

    Very astute observations, Thomas. Public reaction to the recent government shutdown indicates there is a limit to how much extremism the voters will tolerate. But I’m not so sure these decisions are being made by Tillis himself. I think he’s been given some very detailed instructions on what to do (and not do) in this election, if he wants to stay ahead in the money race, that is.

    I think he’ll win the Primary, but the big question is: will he be able to avoid a runoff? If he can’t, all bets are off. That will be a sign of weakness on his part, and a sign of strength on (probably) Greg Brannon’s part. And you know how R voters react to those signs.

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