With North Carolina’s Republican candidates for U.S. Senate “bracing for a brutal primary fight,” a new CNN report examines how former President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn his November 2020 election loss is quickly becoming a divisive “2022 GOP litmus test” for the messy GOP field of candidates.
Before he joined the Senate race, failed ex-governor and desperate loser Pat McCrory “offered unsparing criticism” blaming Trump for his loss and “dismissed that there was ‘something devious’” about the 2020 election results, saying he isolated “soccer moms” and brought on a legal team that “failed miserably.” He even said Trump was “destroying democracy.” Now a candidate for U.S. Senate, McCrory is suddenly changing his tune, attempting to “reconcile his criticism of Trump” and “stress allegiance” to the disgraced former president while already facing sharp attacks from former Congressman Mark Walker and Congressman Ted Budd.
Read more about the “divisive” primary awaiting North Carolina Republicans:
- Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory acknowledged reality in 2020: former President Donald Trump lost. He then explained why — and objected to Trump’s baseless effort in Congress to overturn the election.
- Now a candidate for Senate, McCrory is facing the same threat as other Republicans in key races: a primary against challengers who vigorously defended Trump’s actions in the runup to the January 6 insurrection and backed Trump’s Big Lie that he actually won reelection.
- And in the high-stakes North Carolina primary, McCrory is trying to reconcile his criticism of Trump from his radio program, telling CNN he backed “almost all” of the former President’s policies, supported his reelection effort and opposed both times Trump was impeached by the House, including on a charge of inciting the Capitol insurrection.
- Yet since Election Day, McCrory has at times offered unsparing criticism of Trump in candid comments on his radio program, according to a CNN review of his remarks. McCrory dismissed that there was “something devious” leading to President Joe Biden winning the race, saying that Trump’s name-calling, “disastrous” first debate performance and personality cost him the election, turning off “soccer moms” in the suburbs. He said the then-President’s legal team “failed miserably,” saying it was Trump’s “fault” for bringing them on board — and said his pressure campaign on Georgia officials to find enough votes to reverse Biden’s win raised “some possible legal issues.”
- At one point, McCrory compared Trump to 2018 Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams for not accepting defeat, saying they were both “destroying democracy.”
- Asked about the comments, McCrory instead stressed his allegiance with Trump, noting that he supported the then-President’s reelection effort — and was aligned with virtually all of the Trump agenda, except massive deficit spending.
- Walker has sensed an opening in McCrory’s criticism of Trump, who won the state both in 2016 and 2020. “One day he’s all about pro-Trump; the next day he’s taking a personal shot,” Walker told CNN.
- Jonathan Felts, Budd’s political adviser, said that there was a “disconnect” between the former governor and ex-president that the congressman could exploit.
- “Given President Trump’s continued popularity in North Carolina, McCrory’s disconnect with Trump and Trump voters will be a significant problem for him in this primary,” Felts said.
- In North Carolina, Republicans are bracing for a brutal primary fight — and are awaiting a decision by Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara, on whether she’ll run for the seat caused by the retirement of GOP Sen. Richard Burr.
- The primary race, however, could turn on loyalty to Trump, even though no Republican candidate has aligned with him 100% of the time.
- When McCrory jumped in the race, Walker said that he was the “most conservative and pro-Trump” member of Congress from North Carolina, and noted that while McCrory had won his governor’s race in 2012, he also had lost gubernatorial campaigns in 2008 and 2016.