How Thom Tillis, Once a NC Moderate, Became the Unlikeliest of Trump Allies

In this March 2, 2020, file photo Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., speaks during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump in Charlotte, N.C. State election officials certified the election results Tuesday, sealing Trump and Tillis' victories in the divided state. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File)

By Billy Ball

August 10, 2020

Facing a rocky road to re-election, a new report digs into Sen. Tillis’ complicated relationship with President Trump.  

As we’ve reported in this space multiple times, Sen. Thom Tillis is facing one bitterly close race for re-election in 2020, one that seems to wax and wane with President Trump’s own electoral fortunes. 

A new report from The Intercept though digs into Tillis’ complicated relationship with the president. At times, Tillis and Trump have been on very shaky ground. The senator once condemned Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape as “indefensible.” But he’s also been, at times, a full-throated supporter of the president, once asking his followers on Twitter to sign a birthday card for the president’s adult son. 

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The new report examines Tillis’ tortured road to 2020, his leadership in the GOP takeover of the NC General Assembly, his time in the US Senate and his unsteady footing heading into the 2020 election. As polling has shown, voters in NC are not too pleased with Tillis’ leadership, but his relationship with the president could either make or break the candidate. 

For the full story, head on over to The Intercept. But here’s an excerpt from the report, which was authored by Paul Blest (a former Cardinal & Pine contributor):

“Tillis has something else on his side: the fact that he’s grown closer and closer with Trump, not unlike the relationship Trump has forged with past critics such as Sen. Lindsey Graham. In June 2019, Trump tweeted out a full-throated endorsement of Tillis, and Tillis returned the favor by defending Trump at every turn, even after the Ukraine scandal broke and the House impeached Trump. Even Trump has poked fun at Tillis’s sudden change of heart.

In December, Tarte recalled, he was part of a meeting with Tillis in which someone asked what Trump’s position was on something. Tillis pulled out his phone, according to Tarte, said, ‘Hell, let him tell you himself,’ and put Trump on speakerphone.

Tillis’s pandering, however, briefly crossed the threshold of absurdity earlier this year, when he solicited signatures for a ‘birthday card’ for Eric Trump on Twitter. The tweet drew a scathing editorial from the hometown Charlotte Observer, which charged Tillis with being ‘so consumed with currying favor from Donald Trump that he embarrasses himself and the state he represents.’”


  • Billy Ball

    Billy Ball is Cardinal & Pine's senior community editor. He’s covered local, state and national politics, government, education, criminal justice, the environment and immigration in North Carolina for almost two decades, winning state, regional and national awards for his reporting and commentary.

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