Pat McCrory is taking the debate stage on Saturday following a slew of bad press, including a “revealing” story on how McCrory is struggling to find his footing in today’s Republican Party, that time may not be on McCrory’s side due to the extended primary, and reporting highlighting fundraising trends that alienate him even more from the Trump base.
Read more about what they’re saying:
The Assembly: Pat McCrory’s New Game
- The former Charlotte mayor and governor considers himself a Reagan Republican and believes in “constructive conservatism.” Now, as he runs for the U.S. Senate against a Trump-endorsed candidate, the ground has shifted—and he’s trying to find his footing.
- McCrory finds himself in a state party comprised of factions that echo old divisions, though now with a more militant, anti-establishment wing. Almost 6 in 10 likely North Carolina GOP primary voters consider themselves Trump Republicans, not “traditional” Republicans, according to a January poll for the conservative Civitas Institute. Half said they’re inclined to vote for somebody backed by Trump.
- “Candidly, I don’t think Pat fits in the Republican Party of today,” former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, an outspoken anti-Trumper who left the GOP last year, told The Assembly. “He’s trying to. But it’s a square peg in a round hole.”
- In 2013, McCrory entered the governor’s office as the state’s first Republican governor with a General Assembly controlled entirely by his own party since right after the Civil War. But traveling to Jones Street was often like crossing enemy lines.
- “He would enjoy coming down and telling us what to do,” former Republican state Sen. Bob Rucho, who represented a Charlotte suburb and now lives in Southport, told The Assembly. “He didn’t understand how Raleigh worked and how you had to work with a legislature. There’s an old saying: ‘Some people just don’t know what they don’t know.’ Clearly, Pat believed he was going to tell Raleigh what to do.”
- “More times than I can count,” Apodaca said. “He did not understand how state government worked.”
- “He did not understand how state government worked.”
- McCrory has long faced conservative skeptics, several of whom spoke with The Assembly.
- Steven Rader, a former state party official from Beaufort County, calls McCrory “a wishy washy moderate.” Jim Womack of Lee County, a director of the grassroots Conservative Coalition of NC, said he “blows with the wind.”
- “Whatever’s expedient about getting elected,” Womack said.
National Journal: Who Benefits from the Longer Primary in North Carolina?
- The Rolling Stones once sang that time was on their side. That might not be the case for Pat McCrory.
- The early primary would have benefited McCrory. As a former governor, McCrory was the biggest name to hop into the race to replace Burr. He’s led most polling released on the race so far, but Budd has Trump’s endorsement and raised more money than McCrory last quarter. The more time Budd and his allies have to introduce himself to voters, the more opportunities he’ll have to bridge the gap.
- This sort of uncertainty isn’t anything new in North Carolina politics, according to veteran North Carolina GOP consultant Paul Shumaker, who is advising McCrory.
- Unlike the other two candidates Trump has endorsed in competitive primaries—Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama and former state Commissioner of Administration Kelly Tshibaka in Alaska—Budd’s fundraising has trended upwards while McCrory’s has ticked down in every quarter since he’s been in the race. Last quarter, Budd raised $968,000 to McCrory’s $768,000. Budd had more cash on hand entering the year, with $2.2 million to McCrory’s $1.9 million.
- “The extended primary hasn’t impacted us other than extending Governor McCrory’s career as a career politician by two months,” said Jonathan Felts, senior adviser to Budd’s campaign. “We were prepared to beat McCrory in March and we are prepared, and even better positioned, to beat McCrory in May.”
- “I think the party as a whole has moved considerably into lockstep with Donald Trump,” said Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College. “I think the endorsement by Trump will carry significant weight. But the big question on my mind is how Trumpian is the primary electorate?”
- McCrory has led early surveys of the race, thanks in large part to his name recognition as the only statewide elected official in the primary.. But looking at internal polls his campaign released, his support appears to have fallen.
- In April, a poll from GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies found McCrory at 48 percent, Walker at 13 percent, and Budd at 9 percent. Fast forward to October, and the same firm had McCrory leading Budd by 15 points.
- In January, a survey from Strategic Partners Solutions—Shumaker’s firm—found McCrory’s lead down to 9 points.
- The most recent independent poll, conducted by Republican firm Cygnal on Jan. 7-9, found McCrory at 24 percent and Budd at 18, with 48 percent undecided.
- The Club for Growth, which backed Budd, released a poll in December that found Budd leading McCrory, 47 to 43 percent with 10 percent undecided in a head-to-head poll.
NC Insider: Senate Fundraising
- U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, a top Republican contender in the U.S. Senate race, attended a fundraising event at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in South Florida. Budd was one of 13 Trump-endorsed candidates at the event, according to NBC News, which reported the cost of admission ranged from $3,000 to $250,000 with the money going to Trump’s Super PAC. Budd posted photos of himself on social media at the “MAGA Again” event with Trump and on a panel at “The Take Back Congress Candidate Forum.” Budd will also appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on Thursday.
- Former Gov. Pat McCrory, Budd’s top rival in the Senate race, was not invited to the MAGA event nor the CPAC event, both Trump-dominated affairs. In recent months, McCrory has taken positions aligning with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConell, R-Kentucky, a frequent Trump target. In December, an adviser to McCrory’s campaign said he would back McConnell as leader in the Senate, something the Budd campaign has carefully avoided. Earlier this month, McCrory backed McConnell over how to characterize the events of Jan. 6, 2021.
- In the fourth quarter of 2021, McCrory received donations from at least 10 donors who had previously given to McConnell, who has been in the Senate since 1985 and has a wide network of supporters.