RALEIGH, N.C. News – Former President Donald Trump will return to North Carolina Friday night to headline a rally for Republicans, including U.S. Senate candidate Ted Budd, as polling shows he is in a tight race against Democrat Cheri Beasley.
Noting how the former president remains a “divisive figure,” Meredith College political analyst David McLennan said the rally is a “double-edged sword” for Budd and other candidates.
“It cuts both ways,” said McLennan. “For Ted Budd, I think it’s necessary to get the enthusiasm high. It’ll also bring out Democrats who know that President Trump routinely campaigns for Budd.”
The rally in Wilmington comes as new polling released this week shows Budd’s lead in the Senate race narrowing with less than two months to go until the election.
The latest CBS 17/Emerson College/The Hill Poll released Tuesday shows that lead inside the 3-point margin of error, 45.6%-43.2%.
While some Republican candidates across the country have sought to distance themselves from the former President, McLennan said Budd is counting on Trump to help mobilize his base of support.
“Trump won the state in 2016. He won the state in 2020. And, he did not move to the center either,” said McLennan. “I think it’s a high-risk strategy but one that could pay rewards for Ted Budd.”
Beasley’s campaign sought to raise money Friday off Trump’s appearance, noting Budd’s votes to object to the results of the 2020 election.
Trump endorsed Budd in mid-2021, helping to propel him to a decisive win in the Republican primary this year.
In the poll released this week, 52 percent of North Carolina voters said they disapprove of President Joe Biden’s performance while 42 percent said they approve.
Beasley has sought to distance herself from Biden and his administration. She did not appear alongside Vice President Kamala Harris when she recently visited Durham, saying she had other commitments that day.
Additionally, when the poll asked who voters would choose in a hypothetical matchup between Biden and Trump if both ran in 2024, 47 percent of voters chose Trump while 42 percent of voters chose Biden. Meanwhile, 8 percent said “someone else.”
The pollsters also asked about the impact of the FBI’s recent search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate where they seized boxes of classified documents.
Following that search, 43 percent of North Carolina voters said it makes them more likely to vote for Trump as compared to 29 percent who said it makes them less likely and 28 percent who said it makes no difference.
“It has different impacts around the country. And, in North Carolina it seems to be rallying the Trump base,” said Spencer Kimball, director of Emerson College polling. “What we see in, let’s say New Hampshire, is total opposite numbers, where now we see more voters are less likely to vote for Trump.”
Kimball said the search could have an impact not just if Trump runs for president again in 2024 but on this year’s election as well.
“It’s more important to look at these state numbers because it’s really going to tell you what’s motivating these voters to come out to vote,” Kimball said. “For the Democrats, they have abortion access. But, for a lot of the Republicans, they are supporting former President Trump and are going to come out because of the Mar-a-Lago search.”
“What’s interesting,” he added, “is within the Democratic Party, Joe Biden is a Democrat but he isn’t the Democratic Party. They still see a difference between Biden and the Democratic Party. For the Republicans, they don’t really see a difference between Trump and the Republican Party. Trump is the Republican Party.”
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