Thomas Mills

Thomas Mills

Tuesday, 21 January 2020 13:17

COLUMN: Thoughts on the NYT endorsement

On Sunday, the New York Times endorsed both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar for president. Or at least to become the Democratic nominee. The endorsement comes at a time when Warren is trying to settle a high-profile dispute with Bernie Sanders and Klobuchar is struggling to gain enough momentum to stay in the race. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2020 14:13

COLUMN: What's wrong with North Carolina?

Last week, the Republicans in the Kansas legislature reached an agreement with the Democratic governor to expand Medicaid. Today, the North Carolina legislature goes back into session. Maybe we could see a similar agreement here. 

Tuesday, 07 January 2020 14:54

COLUMN: A sad little man

I suspect that at some point, Thom Tillis had a modicum of self-respect. I also suspect that those days are long forgotten. Today, he debases himself regularly trying to stay in the good graces of the con man in the White House. 

Tuesday, 31 December 2019 16:38

COLUMN: The political stars of 2019

In North Carolina, the political stars of 2019 were the Democrats in the North Carolina House and Senate. They showed that they’ve learned how to be a minority party. They upheld the governor’s veto time and again without losing the news narrative. In the process, they’ve set themselves up to be truly competitive for the first time in a decade.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019 16:27

COLUMN: Dueling emails and the budget impasse

Over the past couple of weeks, the candidates for governor have been emailing state employees about legislative business. First, Gov. Roy Cooper emailed principals asking them to share an “open letter” with employees about the lack of a state budget and, hence, no raises for teachers. In response, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest emailed all of the state’s teachers blaming Cooper for the lack of raises because he vetoed the budget.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 15:53

COLUMN: Gerrymandering and the 17th Amendment

Now that the Congressional districts have been settled we know one thing for almost certain: all of the races will be decided in March. Short of a tectonic shift in our politics, Republicans will hold eight seats and Democrats five. The makeup of our Congressional delegation has been decided by the people who draw the districts, not the voters. It’s a shame. 

Tuesday, 03 December 2019 15:41

COLUMN: A trust fund for Silent Sam

The email came from interim UNC-CH Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. Silent Sam would never return to the UNC campus. That seemed like good news on the day before Thanksgiving. But that was just half of the news. 

A poll from Fox News last week showed Cal Cunningham trailing Erica Smith in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. The poll also gave Sen. Thom Tillis his best numbers yet, showing he had a positive favorability rating, something he hasn’t seen in any poll since early in his tenure. It also showed him with a commanding lead in his primary. The poll contrasted with another one that showed him still underwater.  

Tuesday, 05 November 2019 13:35

COLUMN: A sobering poll for Democrats

Democrats in North Carolina who think they’re about to sail to victory next November should think again.

The New York Times has an in-depth poll out this morning that shows Donald Trump leading the state against the top Democrats running. He’s ahead of Biden by two points and leads Warren and Sanders by three. The outcome of the presidential contest will likely have a big impact on races down the ballot. According to this poll, 2020 will look more like 2016 than 2018.

The poll shows a yawning gender gap with Trump leading among men by double digits and as high as 15 points. Women oppose him but not by as wide a margin. They prefer Warren by 10, Biden by nine and Sanders by five. 

Trump has consolidated Republican support. He’s got about 85% support against all three Democrats. He’s also got 15% or more of Democrats. Most of those voters reflect the Jessecrats who are dying out but still voting. Unaffiliated voters break evenly between Trump and the Democrats.

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s base is among white, non-college-educated and older voters. Trump garners at least 59% of white voters against any of the Democrats while only about a third of whites support the Democrats. Historically, Democratic candidates need at least 33% of the white vote to win. The candidates are all on the threshold.  


Fifty percent of voters without a bachelor’s degree say they’ll vote for Trump, but in the head-to-heads, that number is closer to 55%. In contrast, 54% of voters with a college degree say they’ll likely or definitely vote for the Democrat and 59% of those with a graduate degree or higher will, too. According to the sample, 65% of the voters have less than a college degree. 

With the exception of Sanders, African American support for the Democrat is as solid as GOP support is for Trump. Eighty-seven percent say they will definitely or probably vote for the Democratic candidate. However, while both Biden and Warren garner 85% in the head-to-head, Sanders only gets 78%. 

The age split is as stark as the gender divide. Voters under 45 overwhelmingly support the Democrat. Voters 45 and over overwhelmingly support Donald Trump. The latter group makes up 62% of the sample. 

The poll indicates that this election is all about Donald Trump. Democratic voters don’t significantly favor one candidate over the other. While Biden might be a slightly better candidate for the state, neither Warren nor Sanders will be a significant drag on the ticket. Sanders has some problems with women and African-Americans but he has an advantage among the youngest voters so it’s a wash. 


For Democrats to win, they need to put their resources into outreach, not persuasion. They need to increase turnout among African-American voters, women voters and younger voters — the same groups they’ve needed since Obama. Trump will motivate his supporters. Democrats need to motivate theirs.  

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019 14:11

COLUMN: A North Carolina senator's conundrum

A National Journal article this weekend listed Sen. Thom Tillis as the incumbent U.S. senator with the lowest approval rating. The piece says that Democrats’ path to taking back the Senate is becoming increasingly clear and that North Carolina will be front and center again. In 2014, Tillis unseated incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan in the most expensive U.S. Senate race in North Carolina history as Republicans took control of the Senate after near misses in 2010 and 2012. 

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