House Speaker Thom Tillis spent his first day as the Republican U.S. Senate candidate on national TV, appearing on MSNBC and Fox News on Wednesday.
And it didn’t go entirely smoothly, at least not the MSNBC interview with host Chuck Todd. (See video below.)
Tillis leveled attacks on Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan and defended the sentiment (but not the wording) of his “divide and conquer” statement now getting plenty of national press attention and drawing comparisons to Mitt Romney’s 47 percent gaffe.) The Democrats are pushing the message, including Hagan, who responded to it for the first time in today’s News & Observer.
But it was his answer to a different question – a much simpler question, one he’s answered repeatedly – that raised eyebrows.
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The question focused on the minimum wage, a frequent topic from the Republican primary and one where his position is clear.
Tillis has said he doesn’t support the minimum wage, telling The N&O it was an “artificial threshold,” and later saying it should be set by the states, not the federal government.
Asked about it on MSNBC, Tillis tried to avoid talking about it.
Here’s the exchange, courtesy of Huffington Post, which also picked up on the topic:
Todd: Do you think it should be raised in North Carolina?
Tillis: I think that’s a decision that the legislature needs to make with businesses.
Todd: Well, you’re the speaker. Would you make that decision?
Tillis: Right now what we’re trying to do is make the minimum wage – we’ve got a president and Kay Hagan that want to create a minimum wage economy. What I want to do is create jobs that make the minimum wage irrelevant.
Todd: Okay, so you haven’t really said whether you’d be for raising it or not. Would you support raising it in North Carolina or not?
Tillis: Instead of focusing on this sort of defeatist mentality where we’ve gotta up the minimum wage, why don’t we focus on creating better-paying jobs?
The back-and-forth continued, but Tillis never directly answered the question.
The topic even drew attention from the Asheville Citizen-Times because Tillis invoked the area in his answer. “Barack Obama and Kay Hagan think that the minimum wage needs to be the same in the mountains of North Carolina and in the city of Boston – it makes no sense to me,” Tillis said on the show. “It’s a decision that needs to be made closest to – with the people closest to the situation. And I think that’s state legislatures.”
Later, Tillis appeared on Fox News, where he met a more friendly audience with host Neil Cavuto. The Fox video was not immediately available online.