RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Following this weekend’s rally in North Carolina where former President Donald Trump promoted Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ted Budd, the other top contenders in the primary responded Monday as polling shows Budd with a clear lead.
Former Gov. Pat McCrory debuted a new ad Monday morning featuring an image of Budd over a wheelbarrow full of crap and ends with the tagline, “Cut the crap in Washington.”
A recent poll by CBS17, The Hill and Emerson College found Budd leading the GOP primary field with 38 percent of likely Republican voters supporting him compared to 22 percent for Gov. McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker at 9 percent.
“Certainly, the pattern seems to be emerging that Ted Budd is at or over the critical threshold of 30 percent,” said Catawba College political analyst Michael Bitzer. If a candidate wins the primary with more than 30 percent of the vote, they would avoid a run-off later in the year. “Indeed, Budd is the frontrunner in this contest.”
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R) also endorsed Budd this weekend at the rally. A recent poll released by the John Locke Foundation found he’s the politician with the highest approval rating among Republican primary voters.
Walker recently has been posting pictures of him traveling the state and appearing at various events with Robinson.
“The fact that he decided to step into this race at this point, I think, is a significant achievement for the Budd campaign,” said Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst at the conservative John Locke Foundation. “Having someone as popular among Republicans as Mark Robinson supporting Ted Budd’s campaign, that’s just another knife in the body of the other two major contenders.”
In a statement Monday, Walker said, “This past week I was offered several deals to get out of the U.S. Senate race with the condition I would be a surprise guest at Saturday’s rally to appear on stage and to endorse Mr. Budd as the best candidate in the race. If I accepted the terms, I would be ‘praised’ by a couple of the speakers for being a ‘great conservative.’ I didn’t play this game in DC and I won’t do it now. I refused their offer.”
Walker’s campaign did not respond to questions seeking clarity on the “several deals” he referenced and what they entailed.
Jonathan Felts, a senior adviser to Budd’s campaign, said, “We had zero outreach to Walker. What I heard was some folks think he looks pitiful and were trying to figure out a way for him to get out of the race while saving face a bit and have some options for 2024, but he rebuffed their offer of assistance.”
The super PAC Club for Growth has committed to spending more than $10 million to help Budd win the primary and has produced numerous attack ads targeting McCrory.
“When you line up potentially up to $15 million to attack one candidate, there has to be some kind of response. But, that is an overwhelming number,” said Bitzer.
Kokai said Walker’s best hope at this point is to let McCrory and Budd duke it out through attack ads and try to emerge unscathed.
“Even if it’s perhaps not a successful strategy, (it’s) about the only strategy he has left at this point: stay out of the fray, try to let Ted Budd and Pat McCrory hammer on each other,” Kokai said.