DSCC - Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

02/23/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/23/2021 14:48

GOP Race For NC’s Open Senate Seat Consumed By Trump-Fueled Divisions

February 23, 2021 Press Releases

North Carolina Republican Strategist: 'My Worry Is That We're Going To Lose The Seat Because We Get The Trumpiest Guy Of The Bunch'

New reporting from the Washington Post and CNN highlights how North Carolina's open Senate seat in 2022 has become a major headache for Republicans plagued by deep divisions that are causing the GOP to hemorrhage support in the 'prized suburbs' while alienating donors.

The North Carolina GOP just censured their most senior elected official - retiring Senator Richard Burr - for voting with a bipartisan Senate majority to convict former President Trump. Many Republican voters have recently changed their registrations 'because of Trump's actions.' Major in-state donors have pledged to withhold campaign cash from candidates who supported Trump's false claims about the election. And as Republican strategists worry 'Trump's standing has worsened since January 6 and could drag down-ticket candidates with him,' the party is facing the prospect of a messy primary. As one GOP strategist bluntly said: 'my worry is that we're going to lose the seat because we get the Trumpiest guy of the bunch.'


Washington Post: North Carolina tests how Republicans see themselves after Trump

  • 'There are many people who have turned their back on the Republican Party because they didn't feel their elected officials stood up enough for Trump,' Walker said of what he has heard in recent weeks as he tours the state.
  • Yet others are leaving because of Trump's actions, reflecting an outrage that recently led the state party's senior politician, Sen. Richard Burr, to vote to convict the former president of inciting an insurrection.
  • Big donors in the state are also going to ground, with local billionaire Jim Goodnight, who gave heavily to the Republican House and Senate efforts last year, signaling that none of his money henceforth will go to candidates who 'did not support the integrity of the election process, which is so vital to our democracy,' according to a spokesman.
  • The risks for a deeply pro-Trump party were clear in the GOP's stunning losses in two Georgia runoffs in December, and now Republican leaders are struggling to avoid a similar setback in another changing Southern state. Adding to the complexity is the prospect of a Trump family member, daughter-in-law and North Carolina native Lara Trump, entering the race, as party leaders assess how to balance the need to energize those who believe that Trump's election defeat was illegitimate and suburban moderates dismayed by the former president's behavior.
  • Democrats are hoping the divide becomes too heavy to bear in the coming Senate race, given the party's growing weakness in suburban areas and the heavy dependence on Trump's provocations to drive turnout in rural areas. The nightmare scenario for Republicans is a repeat of the Georgia special election in January, in which some Trump supporters stayed home amid Trump's anger over his loss in the state, while Black and suburban voters remained motivated to cast their ballots for Democrats in opposition to Trumpism. The twin Democratic wins gave the party effective control of the body.
  • The state GOP apparatus already is trying to push itself away from intraparty squabble, which continues to thrive on internal party message boards across the state, activists say, as grass-roots Republicans call for further condemnation of Burr and his supporters in the party.
  • Doug Heye, a former aide to Burr, said the data he's seen suggests that most of the thousands of Republican voters who've dropped their registrations in recent weeks have been from the prized suburbs - where elections are often won and lost in North Carolina and other competitive states. He expects the state party's censure vote of Burr to accelerate the shift.
  • 'It's another sign of the party signaling to unaffiliated voters or those Republicans who saw enough in November or certainly on Jan. 6 that the North Carolina Republican Party isn't interested in their vote,' Heye said. 'It scares off voters and the party gets smaller, which also means they're getting Trumpier.'
  • Morgan Jackson, a Democratic strategist in North Carolina whose clients include Gov. Roy Cooper, said it's notable that Trump did two percentage points worse in the state in 2020 than he did in 2016, even with the surge in GOP turnout. That's evidence of shifting suburban alliances and proof that most of the college-educated, younger voters rushing into the state are not Republicans, he said.
  • 'Republicans are in a really bad spot,' he said. 'The only way you can replicate that turnout is to double down on the crazy talk, and that turns off swing voters. And meanwhile they are kicking out people who don't pledge their fealty to Donald Trump. That's a lot of Republicans.'

CNN: North Carolina emerges as battleground for post-Trump GOP

  • Across the country, many Republican candidates have already tied themselves to Trump, blaming the mob for attempting to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election on January 6, rather than the former President for urging his supporters to 'stop the steal.'
  • But some GOP strategists worry that that primary strategy could hurt Republicans in 2022, noting that Trump's reputation was damaged by efforts to overturn his loss that resulted in violence.
  • But Republican operatives in the state privately worry that Trump's standing has worsened since January 6 and could drag down-ticket candidates with him.
  • Richard Wernau, a Republican voter from Charlotte, said the riot was 'disgusting,' 'demoralizing' and 'deplorable,' and that the former President needed to be 'punished' for his actions. 'I voted for Trump, and I was mad at myself,' said Wernau.
  • 'They're all making a play for the primary,' said a North Carolina Republican strategist granted anonymity to speak freely about the Senate race. 'But my worry is that we're going to lose the seat because we get the Trumpiest guy of the bunch.'
  • 'The Trump brand is in a horrible place with swing voters,' said Jackson. 'You're going to pledge to that, rather than a policy or an ideal?'