By Jim Ellis
June 23, 2021 — Three Politico publication reporters, Burgess Everett, Melanie Zanona, and Olivia Beavers, combined on an article published yesterday (Nasty N.C. Senate primary tests Trump’s sway over the GOP) that merits refutation.
The piece details former President Trump’s public endorsement of US Senate candidate Ted Budd, the 13th District congressman, at the North Carolina Republican Party convention on June 5, and reactions to the development. Generally, and not surprisingly, it casts the endorsement and Rep. Budd’s statewide chances in a negative light.
Therefore, a number of points require balance.
1. To begin, the story quotes key Republicans, such as retiring North Carolina US Sen. Richard Burr (R) and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), who are downplaying the Trump endorsement’s effectiveness, with Sen. Burr going so far as claiming that ex-governor Pat McCrory is basically the only candidate who could win the upcoming general election. It is important to note here that McCrory failed to win re-election in 2016, the last time he was on a statewide ballot.
2. Secondly, a released Meeting Streets Insight poll conducted for the Budd campaign (June 9-10; 500 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters; live interview) highlights a different perspective.
The MSI survey found McCrory leading the GOP field 45-19-12 percent over Rep. Budd and former US representative, Mark Walker, respectively. When the polling sample is informed of the Trump endorsement – only 20 percent were aware before the pollsters provided the information – the ballot test completely flips to 46-27-8 percent with Rep. Budd leading, followed by ex-governor McCrory and former Rep. Walker. Obviously, this suggests the Trump endorsement still has power within the North Carolina Republican primary voter segment.
3. Third, the Politico analysis suggests that Trump’s influence will wane as we enter next year’s election because he doesn’t receive daily news coverage and has lost his social media “megaphone.” This assumes that Trump won’t re-emerge on some other type of media platform, and, as this article exemplifies, the media itself continues to keep Trump alive as a dominant figure with no course correction apparent on the political horizon. Therefore, his presence is still likely to be prominent, which Republican voters seem to feel matters.
4. Fourth, the article’s final segment generally attempts to paint Rep. Budd into a right-wing corner that the Politico reporters and others they quoted, such as Sen. Burr and Budd’s Republican opponents, believe will disqualify him from winning opposite the eventual Democratic Party nominee. The clear suggestion is someone other than Budd would be a stronger Republican general election candidate.
The past election statistics throughout the 2010-2020 period, however, point in the opposite direction and actually show consistent voting patterns for both parties irrespective of the involved candidates.
Looking at the statewide races for federal and state office, exclusive of the judicial campaigns, the Republicans won 23 of 37 such contests during the 10-year period. The researched races were for president, US Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, agriculture commissioner, commissioner of insurance, commissioner of labor, and superintendent of public instruction.
Among the incumbents seeking re-election during the decade, 11 Republicans have won during that stretch as compared to 12 Democrats. The latter party, however, has lost more incumbent races as Republicans defeated five Democratic officeholders while only losing one. The average victory percentage for these Republican candidates was 52.7 percent, while the mean Democratic figure in their combined victories, excluding the 2012 attorney general’s race when then-incumbent Roy Cooper ran unopposed, is a similar 52.1 percent.
Furthermore, as mentioned above, the one GOP incumbent loss during the last decade is none other than former governor McCrory. This, in a 2016 election year when the other four statewide Republican incumbents seeking re-election were all victorious.
5. Finally, an additional point concerns the infamous “bathroom bill” that many claimed was the top reason McCrory was defeated. The fact that the bill’s state Senate author, then-Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), won a special 2019 congressional election in a politically marginal district while being significantly outspent and viewed as an underdog, and then clinched almost a 12-point victory for a full term a year later suggests that the ex-governor’s political baggage is heavier than mishandling this single piece of legislation.
What we can now safely derive from the early North Carolina political happenings is that both parties can expect to host highly competitive nomination battles, each a prelude to a tough general election fight that could conceivably decide which party claims an absolute majority in the next US Senate.