Chasing public opinion instead of crafting public policy

Published July 30, 2020

By Thomas Mills

Nationally, Republicans are starting to hit the panic button. An article in Politico this morning highlights the fear that the GOP will lose more Congressional seats after believing they were close to the bottom after 2018. On the Senate side, enough incumbent Republicans are trailing their Democratic opponents to flip the chamber. Trump continues to trail Biden both nationally and in the major swing states.

In North Carolina, Senator Thom Tillis is struggling to stay within double digits of challenger Cal Cunningham. The Real Clear Politics average has Cunningham leading by 6.2 but every poll they cite in July has Cunningham up by at least eight and as much as twelve. Paid advertising is clearly having an effect on the electorate.

Tillis has a real problem with voters of all persuasions. In his attempt to be all things to all people, he’s left everyone disgruntled. He’s helped define himself as somebody who will say anything to get elected. He spent the last half of 2019 and the first two months of 2020 as a Trump cheerleader, praising the president for every crazy move he made. He’s spent the spring and summer trying to once again become the voice of reason, praising Democratic Governor Roy Cooper more than Trump.

 Tillis is one of those politicians who has little respect for the voters and thinks he can fool them all of the time. In fact, enough people have been watching him to know that he’s a man of little substance who wants to be something more than he wants to do something. Nobody of any political persuasion likes a weathervane.

What’s most notable about Tillis is that he is tracking so far behind Trump. The RCP average has Trump trailing Biden by 3.4%. Tillis needs to do something to catch up with the president. He was praising Trump yesterday and praising Cooper a few weeks ago. What Tillis lacks is any consistent record or signature accomplish after almost six years in the Senate.

 Tillis has spent his political career chasing public opinion instead of crafting public policy. Instead of looking to polls to guide him, he should have looked to other Republican leaders in North Carolina. Jesse Helms often took positions that were at odds with most of the voters but he defended them in the press and on the floor of the Senate. People may not have agreed with him, but they knew where he stood. Jim Martin was a solid centrist Republican throughout his career and rarely pandered to his more conservative base, yet never lost them, either. Nobody knows where Tillis stands on much of anything and his base doesn’t trust him to stand with them when it matters. The polls Tillis has been chasing bear that perception out.