05/07/2014 10:55 am ET Updated May 07, 2014

Thom Tillis, GOP Senate Candidate, Suddenly Won't Take Position On Minimum Wage

North Carolina's new GOP Senate candidate, Thom Tillis, was unable to answer a very simple question on Wednesday: Would he support raising the minimum wage in his state?

The yes-or-no question came from MSNBC's Chuck Todd, who's made a healthy habit of questioning Republican politicians over their stances on the minimum wage. In the past week, Todd has teased qualified support for minimum wage hikes out of both former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), both former GOP presidential candidates.

But when it came to Tillis, the North Carolina House speaker who's hoping to unseat Democrat Kay Hagan in the U.S. Senate, Todd couldn't coax Tillis into taking a position at all in an interview on "The Daily Rundown." Although Tillis said minimum wage hikes are best left to the states, he wouldn't say whether it is appropriate to raise North Carolina's, which is currently $7.25.

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?

Todd: It sounds like you are for keeping it as is. That's a fair way to read this?

Tillis: I'm for creating high-paying jobs.

Todd: Okay. Stay safe on the campaign trail.

Not even two months ago, Tillis was flatly against raising the minimum wage, saying it would cost jobs. He went so far as to suggest that government shouldn't set a minimum wage at all.

"I think for the most part the market needs to define that,” Tillis said when asked what a living wage would be. “When we create artificial thresholds then you run into a big problem."

But that was when Tillis was in the midst of a Republican primary, hoping to appeal to voters who, on the whole, are less supportive of a wage floor hike. Now that he faces a general electorate after winning Tuesday's primary, a hard-line stance against a minimum wage raise wouldn't behoove him.

Americans on the whole enthusiastically support congressional Democrats' proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and tie it to inflation. Most polls show at least two-thirds of respondents back the measure, including many Republicans. More than half of the North Carolinians Tillis is hoping to reach also support the plan, by a margin of 54 percent to 37 percent, according to a recent poll from Public Policy Polling.

North Carolina is one of 30 states that doesn't mandate a higher minimum wage than the federal level of $7.25 per hour.



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