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Tills' College, Cont.

NC House Speaker and GOP candidate for US Senate Tom Tillis says that when he is asked about his education, he tells people he went to the “University of Maryland,” which he uses as a kind of “shorthand” for his actual alma mater, the University of Maryland University Campus, the university’s online program.

I don’t buy it, and I think that NC voters will be unlikely to buy it. This is a State, after all, where the “University of North Carolina” has 18 separate campuses. To the extent that someone in NC uses “University of North Carolina” as shorthand, however, they can only mean UNC-Chapel Hill, the flagship school within the system. No one in the state would refer to UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Pembroke, UNC-Wilmington (much less NC State, NC Central, NC A&T, the NC School for the arts) with the shorthand “University of North Carolina, although technically that would be the equivalent to what Tillis is suggesting.

Further, as it has been (and remains for a few more months) a long-time member of the ACC, the University of Maryland is well-known to NC sports fans. Annual basketball and football games are held between UNC/NCSU/Duke/Wake Forest and Maryland…and the “University of Maryland” is always the shorthand for the University of Maryland at College Park.

There is no way that Tillis doesn’t know this, and hasn’t intentionally just used the “University of Maryland” shorthand as a way to buy him the cache of College Park, which is exactly what most listeners would assume. I’d be willing to bet that his own staffers who created his LinkedIn and campaign webpages heard he went the University of Maryland and just assumed College Park.

Whether any of this matters to GOP primary voters, or ultimately in a race against Sen. Hagan in the fall, however, is an open question. Tillis is the establishment candidate, and he’s running against a divided bunch of misfits trying to be the voice of the Tea Party against him, so he may survive. But I don’t buy it for a minute when he says this was unintentional….

About The Author

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Kay Steiger is an associate editor at Talking Points Memo. She formerly worked at Raw Story, Washingtonian magazine, the Center for American Progress and The American Prospect. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, the Guardian, Jezebel, AlterNet and others. She graduated from the University of Minnesota. Contact her at kay@talkingpointsmemo.com.