By Jim EllisApril 14, 2022 — Just a month ago, some analysts and activists were questioning North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd’s (R-Advance) US Senate campaign even to the point where speculation was building that former President Donald Trump was about to pull his endorsement.
The tables have rapidly turned.
The fifth consecutive statewide survey was published Tuesday showing Budd leading former Gov. Pat McCrory as the two begin the final month of campaigning prior to the May 17 Republican primary.
Survey USA published their latest study (April 6-10; 593 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters, online) projecting Rep. Budd to a 33-23-7-2 percent advantage over McCrory, former US Rep. Mark Walker and author Marjorie Eastman. Since March 22, four other pollsters have published similar numbers. The McCrory camp has yet to counter with different figures.
Vitale & Associates was the first since early January to find Budd leading the race, a 32-29 percent margin over the former governor according to their March 22-23 survey of 504 North Carolina Republican primary likely voters.
The margin started gelling for the Budd campaign this month when three successive surveys gave the congressman double-digit leads. Cygnal, Emerson College, and WPA Intelligence — all published just before the new Survey USA study — staked Rep. Budd to leads of 11, 16, and 13 percentage points, respectively, in their polls conducted between April 1-5.
The turnaround is not particularly surprising. In relation to the Trump endorsement, early polling consistently showed the political horse race changing when the respondents were informed that the former president supported Budd. Though trailing McCrory in the initial ballot test, the fact that the two candidates flipped just on the knowledge of Trump’s endorsement was an early indicator that the former governor and fourteen-year Charlotte mayor held underlying political weaknesses.
The other clue suggesting McCrory could potentially collapse was the fact that 35 percent was his high-water mark in any of the 12 surveys results released since Jan. 5 and he only averaged 27.7 percent in those dozen polls. This, for a former governor before his own political party.
Though the 1st quarter 2022 financial disclosure totals are not yet due or published, Budd had raised slightly more money by the end of last year, $3.09 million to $3.03 million, and had $300,000-plus more cash-on-hand. It is likely he will continue to show a resource edge.
What has helped turn the political fortunes was a multi-million dollar expenditure from the Club for Growth, which has hit the former governor on a number of things: the decision he made to authorize subsidies for Chinese companies; what they say is his “cozying up” to liberal officeholders, such as President Biden, former President Obama, and “Democrat lobbyists;” and revisiting his 2016 election foibles when he lost the governorship and became the only North Carolina Republican incumbent to fall that year.
It appears that McCrory may be in free fall to the point where he can’t rebound. If so, Budd would advance from the Republican primary and into a general election against former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley (D), who, like McCrory, lost a very close re-election campaign the last time she was on the ballot.
North Carolina is a runoff state, but it is unlikely this contest will require a secondary vote. The Tar Heel State is the only political entity that employs a 30 percent runoff threshold, thus it is highly unlikely that the current field will split to the point that all four major candidates and the 10 minor contenders who accompany them will fail to see one individual clinch the nomination.
We can expect the North Carolina Senate race to become one of the key general election contests that determines the next Senate majority; it will draw a great deal of national attention.