Budd powers to front of Republican US Senate primary

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate (N.C.) Ted Budd, left, shakes hands with former President Donald Trump, who endorsed him, during a rally Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Selma, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

SELMA — Ted Budd has drawn on racing analogies in his campaign for the U.S. Senate. His announcement video featured a Monster Truck titled the “Liberal Agenda Crusher” and his grassroots volunteers are called his “pit crew.” In that vein, his recent run to the top of the field could be considered having a setup for the long run – a strategy NASCAR greats such as David Pearson and Mark Martin used to win dozens of races. 

In the past two weeks, four polls in the race have all have shown Budd now leading the Republican primary. The polls counter a media narrative that Budd had been struggling against former Gov. Pat McCrory. 

Two weeks ago, the North Carolina Values Coalition released a poll showing him ahead by three points. Subsequently, the organization endorsed Budd. 

“The GOP primary is now a two-man race, and the choice is between a Republican who barely tolerates pro-life, pro-family evangelicals and Catholics in the conservative movement because he needs their votes, and a Republican who has attended seminary and believes in and actively advocates for policies that back the pro-life, pro-family biblical worldview of Christians,” the group’s executive director, Tami Fitzerald, said in a statement. 

Within the last two weeks, three separate public polls all showed Budd with a double-digit lead. 

A poll from Emerson College and The Hill found Budd with 38%, followed by McCrory at 22% Mark Walker at 9%. 23% of the respondents were undecided. 

Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling noted, “Budd and McCrory are evenly split with 31% apiece among suburban voters; however, rural voters break for Budd 42% to McCrory’s 11%.” 

Club for Growth Action, the PAC which has boosted Budd with millions in outside spending, released its own poll in the race last Wednesday. That poll showed Budd breaking 40% in the race with 31% for McCrory. Walker placed third with 11% and Marjorie K. Eastman earned 3% of the vote with just 11% undecided. 

The Club for Growth was pleased with the result. 

“It’s clear that Ted Budd has taken the lead and voters recognize Pat McCrory is an anti-Trump RINO. President Trump’s rally will boost Budd’s momentum and remind voters that Budd is a principled and proven conservative endorsed by Club for Growth PAC and President Trump, while Pat McCrory has spent his entire career siding with liberals,” said the organization’s president, David McIntosh, in a statement. 

The Emerson College poll also included a general election preview with each of the candidates. Budd performed the best against expected Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley. 

Budd led Beasley 50% to 43% and McCrory trailed, losing 43% to 41%. 

The latest result, released by Raleigh TV station WRAL on Monday, had Budd leading with 33% to McCrory’s 23% and a third of the voters saying they were undecided. 

McCrory told the station We don’t think it’s double digits,” McCrory said. “The independent vote is going to help determine this election. We think this election is going to be a dead heat.” 

The wave of polling boosted Budd heading into this past weekend’s Johnston County rally with Budd’s biggest backer, former President Donald Trump. 

Thousands turned out to The Farm at 95, in Selma, to see the former president and several other invited speakers including U.S. Reps. Dan Bishop (NC-09), Madison Cawthorn (NC-11), and Greg Murphy (NC-03). Another speaker at the rally was Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who formally gave his support to Budd in the race. 

“If Republicans do not win the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, it is a guarantee that Democrats will remain in control of the Senate. I feel that I have an obligation to do everything in power to ensure that we not only elect a Republican who can beat Cheri Beasley, but also stand firm on conservative values. That is why I’m giving my full endorsement to Ted Budd,” said Robinson. 

Robinson’s political consultant, Conrad Pogorzelski III, said the endorsement marked the end of the race. 

On stage, Trump touted Budd as an “unrelenting champion” for North Carolina values. 

“Ted Budd really is an unrelenting champion for your North Carolina values and for America First. Ted’s been a ferocious opponent of deadly sanctuary cities right here in your state,” said Trump. “He fought strongly against the Democrats unscientific COVID lockdowns and school closures, which were absolutely hurting your children so badly. And he has shown he will stand up to the RINOs. Ted is a fantastic man and he’ll defend your borders. He will be tough as hell on crime.” 

Trump then brought Budd on the stage, with the three-term Congressman saying, he was ready to help make America great again “now more than ever” after the last year a half of the Biden administration. 

“Joe Biden’s America is woke and broke and we can’t back down, the fight starts now. Let’s go win this for our country,” Budd said to cheers from the crowd.