WILSON, N.C. — Thom Tillis, the Republican running for a North Carolina Senate seat that could well decide the majority in the Senate, has been pilloried since last week’s debate by Democrats who see him as a condescending “man-splainer” who played into gender stereotypes.
But in his first comments on the controversy, the Republican state House speaker was unrepentant in a sit-down interview on the campaign trail, chalking up the firestorm to Democrats playing gender politics to boost Sen. Kay Hagan.“It’s just silly,” he said during a lunch stop this weekend with supporters over barbecue, fried oysters and chicken livers. “We’re talking about the future of the greatest nation on the earth, and this is what we’re going to?”
In a state that’s become ground zero this cycle for Democrats “war on women” strategy, the debate served as a flashpoint. There’s no race in the country where the gender gap is more pronounced than North Carolina — a must-win state for both parties. Democratic women’s groups Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List have already announced their biggest 2014 investments will be in the Tar Heel State, where there are 500,000 more women registered to vote than men.
Polls have shown the race locked in a dead heat even with the wide gender gap. A USA Today/Suffolk University poll — conducted in August, before the first debate — had Hagan up 18 points among female voters and Tillis leading by 12 points among men.
The attacks began after Tillis, in a paid advertisement, jabbed at the incumbent, a former bank vice president, saying “Math is lost on Sen. Hagan.” Then, in last week’s debate, in which the Republican appeared better prepared overall, Tillis referred to her as “Kay,” even though she continued to refer to him as “Speaker Tillis.”
“We saw women on social media in particular who were bothered by his tone and more than anything they were bothered by his record,” said Sadie Weiner, spokeswomen for Hagan.
Tillis dismissed the criticism.
“I knew Sen. Hagan when she was in the state legislature. I knew her husband Chip. This race isn’t about titles. It’s about results,” he said. “And in Sen. Hagan’s case, it’s a lack of results. If you look at it just objectively, if that is what the Hagan’s camp is focusing on in this debate, then they must have really felt in their own minds that they fell short on the issues. If it really comes down to that — I mean what about the substance of the debate?”
As a side note, what Ms. Weiner won’t tell you is that the much of the “outrage” over the alleged “mansplaining” that was seen on social media last Wednesday during and after the debate came from … political operatives like herself, and state-wide media allies who (unsurprisingly) eagerly jumped on the “Tillis was being mean!” bandwagon. As a general rule, once the media validates a particular “criticism”, there is a snowball effect with others who may not have necessarily seen it that way then falling in line with the prevailing – but false – narrative.
Tillis is right – if ridiculous charges of “mansplaining” are the best Team Hagan could do coming out of last week’s debate, it kind of tells you how badly they think she did, which is why they want you to focus on the sideline noise they’re drumming up about sexism which – ironically, is what they themselves are guilty of. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.