GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The Tweet from a national political correspondent that caused a bit of a buzz about North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis on Sunday night may not mean what you think it means.
But exactly what the post by Maggie Haberman, a senior political correspondent for The New York Times and CNN, does mean might be open to interpretation:
“Sen Thom Tillis will be appearing in some early states, per person familiar with planning,” Haberman posted. “He’s expected to focus on the military and governing, but his visits are likely to be taken note of.”
And “taken note of,” they were. Haberman made the post at about 8 p.m. on Sunday, and it was viewed more than 300,000 times and shared dozens of times. It prompted dozens of comments that either attacked Tillis’ record (both from Democrats and conservatives) and projected his ultimate goal – which some have suggested could be to run for president.
That idea isn’t a leap, given that Tillis, who has emerged as a person able to negotiate deals in the Senate since narrowly winning re-election in 2020, could be visiting Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina – speculating the locales – where Republican presidential candidates such as former President Donald Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy have stopped to help launch their campaigns and to raise money in their bids to face President Joe Biden in November 2024.
Several would-be GOP candidates, including former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, among others, also have made stops in various places and for various reasons, which can include sticking one’s toes in the electoral water.
Tillis, however, doesn’t seem to be participating in such temperature-checking. But what is he doing? You read it and see.
“Senator Tillis knows better than anyone how Republicans can win back purple states, having won two of the most expensive senate races in history himself,” Tillis adviser Jordan Shaw posted as a response to Haberman, which was shared by Tillis’ spokesperson in response to a query from WGHP.
“While Sen. Tillis won’t be a candidate for President, it’s accurate that he will be visiting a number of early primary states to talk about the road to victory for the GOP in 2024, which will require Republicans to focus on beating Democrats instead of beating up on each other.”
Tillis told The Washington Post in January that he doesn’t consider himself a dealmaker, despite evidence to the contrary, and that he has remained true to his conservative roots.
Those words came after Tillis had worked through compromise legislation to address touchy topics such as gun control, same-sex and interracial marriage and election reform.
And he worked down to the last days of December in an effort to facilitate immigration reform. “We made progress,” he said then.
Still, he followed that by voting against the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill some of his colleagues pushed through in the final days of the year and has pushed for a full-on investigation of the classified files found in President Joe Biden’s former offices and residence.
What influence Tillis could bring to the presidential primary process remains to be seen, and he has had a varying relationship with Trump, the perceived frontrunner whose controversial and inaccurate diatribes have divided the Republican party.
Tillis said in November, when Trump announced his candidacy, that he did a “lot of good work with President Trump. I consider him a friend.” But he said then he was waiting to decide whom to support.
“We have seen a number of people in the Republican Party emerge as leaders,” Tillis said. “We need to see which message resonates.
“This is not about any one person but about winning the White House. I’ll make a decision once we know who the field of players are. When you look ahead … the world changes dramatically from year to year. We’ll see who stands up and makes a case for the American people.”
But in recent weeks he also has been aggressive in sponsoring, suggesting and pushing
Tillis started out in business and rose through four terms in the General Assembly to be House speaker before taking on incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan to steal a Senate seat for the GOP in 2014. He then narrowly defeated Cal Cunningham in his re-election in 2020 by about 1.8 percentage points.
In December 2021 NC Gov. Roy Cooper, who will leave office because of term limits in 2024, was discussed as a potential Democratic presidential candidate. Cooper immediately pledged his support for President Biden and said he was focusing on the state.