RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Former President Donald Trump’s early endorsement in the Republican primary for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat will have significant impacts on the race going forward, political experts told CBS 17 Monday.
Over the weekend, Trump endorsed U.S. Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC 13th District) during the state Republican Party’s convention in Greenville.
In the process, he took swipes at former Gov. Pat McCrory and former U.S. Rep Mark Walker, who has also entered the race.
He said Budd “hasn’t been pushing me at all, unlike some of the others that are running that won’t win.”
The endorsement came minutes after Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump announced she’s not running.
Susan Roberts, a political science professor at Davidson College, called the endorsement a “very big deal.”
“The money that would have been spent, and Republicans would have had to make a choice for the primary whether to give to McCrory, Walker or Budd, he’s pretty much shut that down,” she said. “The Trump believers, they’re not going away. And, a Trump endorsement this early in the game signals to potential contributors all across the country that this is the person to back because this is the person who will win.”
Mitch Kokai, a senior political analyst at the conservative John Locke Foundation, pointed to a Civitas poll about the race conducted last month. Click here to view.
It found Budd was relatively unknown, with about 57 percent of voters saying they hadn’t heard of him.
By comparison, only 11 percent of voters told the pollsters they had not heard of McCrory.
“That the president decided to jump in this early in the race is a bit of a surprise,” said Kokai. “I don’t think that Ted Budd can now say, OK I’ve got President Trump’s endorsement, so it’s smooth sailing for me. A lot of people who are going to be hearing about, watching your story, reading about this endorsement, are still going to be saying, ‘Who? Who’s Ted Budd?’”
He said the “biggest loser” out of the announcement is Walker, who pointed out he won a straw poll at the convention.
“Now, he really is behind the eight ball in trying to get more recognition than he had,” Kokai said.
With Lara Trump declining to run, NC State political analyst Andrew Taylor said he thinks former Rep. Mark Meadows, who served as Trump’s White House Chief of Staff, likely had a role in that decision.
“I think he’s had some influence here and said Ted Budd’s the horse to ride on this one,” said Taylor. “Going for Budd this early seems to me to be a gamble on the former President’s part.”
Roberts said she thinks in the long term, Trump’s endorsement could go a long way toward keeping Republicans from having to sink substantial amounts of money into the primary.
“The money that would have been spent, and Republicans would have had to make a choice for the primary whether to give to McCrory, Walker or Budd, he’s pretty much shut that down,” she said. “The Republicans now with Budd can just sit on their money, add more. And, then you’re going to have a very expensive race with (Democrats) Jeff Jackson, Cheri Beasley and Erica Smith. That’s going to be a barn-buster.”