Thom Tillis’ legislative legacy may be the death of him yet. Back in 2014 when he was running to unseat incumbent Kay Hagan, the Hagan campaign tried to make the race about education and the GOP cuts to teacher salaries and classrooms. One pundit said that Hagan turned a U.S. Senate contest into a school board race. It almost worked. Had ISIS and Ebola not dominated the conversation in September and October, Hagan may well have beaten a GOP wave and remained in the Senate.
This year, it’s Medicaid expansion. As Speaker of the North Carolina House, Tillis took credit for blocking it, leaving about 500,000 without any sort of health insurance. In the midst of a global pandemic, that looks like a really bad idea. Without coverage, people are reluctant to go to the doctor, foregoing early treatments and increasing the likelihood of spread in the community.
This weekend, Trump announced executive orders designed to drive a wedge between Democrats and swing voters who want more economic relief from COVID. Instead, he reduced the size of unemployment checks from $600 a week to $400 a week and cut Social Security and Medicare. With his record of already leaving people off of Medicaid, Tillis is going to need to find a way to thread this needle. Opposing Trump hasn’t worked out for him too well, but supporting cuts to our social safety net is not good politics in the current environment.
Tillis is building a solid record as both a man with few principles and a man who is on the wrong side of the most pressing issues of the day. The results show up in the polling numbers that have bedeviled him. He’s running several points behind the president and his favorability ratings are deep underwater. Climbing out of the hole he’s dug for himself will be a challenge.
To have been so successful electorally, Thom Tillis has been one of the more inept politicians of our times. His record of being something far outshines his record of doing something. The few things he’s actually done have been bad for the state as a whole. The price we’re paying for his leadership will be measured by the number of uninsured North Carolinians and the number of shuttered hospitals. The price he pays for his decisions will measured on November 3.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >