Thomas Mills

Thomas Mills

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. 

The Ku Klux Klan came to Hillsborough on Saturday. They were a pathetic looking crew wearing their robes and waving flags. They made a point of showing their political allegiance with a banner that prominently read, “Make America Great Again.”

Last weekend, Dr. Michael Bitzer wrote about the changing demographics in our campaigns and how they might affect the future of elections in North Carolina. Specifically, younger voters are showing up at much higher rates than they have in the past.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019 17:04

COLUMN: About those Democratic women

There’s been complaining on social media and in the press that the women running for president aren’t getting their fair share of news coverage. I know I’m about to get slammed for mansplaining but I don’t think it’s bias — or at least not most of it. We’ve got 19 declared candidates for president. Four of the most prominent are women. In a field that large, a lot of people are going to get their moment in the sun and anybody who’s going to get major coverage needs to earn it. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019 15:03

COLUMN: NC Republicans exploiting outrage

Republicans in the North Carolina Senate passed a bill last night designed to fire up its base in the 2020 election. They called it “The Abortion Survivor Bill.” In reality, it’s a bill that does virtually nothing but gives GOP members of the legislature a reason to bash Democrats when they’re pandering to their evangelical base. 

North Carolina has a long history of revolving U.S. Senate seats.

Thursday, 28 March 2019 13:05

COLUMN: Thoughts on gerrymandering

Yesterday (Tuesday), the Supreme Court heard cases concerning gerrymandering in North Carolina and Maryland. The results could have wide ranging implications.

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