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Who would lead if NC Senate primary narrows to Budd vs. McCrory? What a new poll says

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North Carolina U.S. Senate race

With 2022 primaries ahead, Republican and Democratic candidates campaign across the state.

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U.S. Rep. Ted Budd would take the lead in the GOP competition for the open U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina, if former Republican Rep. Mark Walker drops his bid and switches to a House seat, according to a poll by Budd’s backers.

Budd would have the edge over former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, leading him 47% to 43% among likely Republican voters with 10% undecided in a two-man race, according to a survey conducted for the Budd-supporting Club for Growth PAC.

When the margin of error in the survey is factored in, the two Republicans land in a statistical tie. The poll, which WPA Intelligence took this week, had a 4.4% margin of error.

Walker is deciding whether to remain in the Senate race or run for the House again and has said he would use the holidays to consider his options.

Club for Growth is Budd’s top booster in the contest to replace retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr. The conservative group has committed to spend at least $10 million on the GOP primary, which was scheduled for March but which a court recently delayed until May amid a redistricting battle.

The group with close ties to former President Donald Trump has been pressuring Walker to leave the race to give Budd a better chance of beating McCrory. Trump has also endorsed Budd.

Club for Growth president David McIntosh helped convene a meeting with North Carolina Republican candidates and Trump at Mar-a-Lago this month, where Trump sought to persuade Walker to exit the Senate race and run for the House.

North Carolina’s Supreme Court announced several days later that it was pushing back candidate filing deadlines while it considered allegations of gerrymandering in redrawn congressional districts.

Walker did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a spokesman for the former congressman could not be reached.

Walker drew 13% support in a November survey that WPA Intelligence conducted for Club for Growth, putting him far behind McCrory, who had 36% support, and Budd, who had 33% support, with 18% undecided.

Club for Growth would not say if it gauged support for the candidates in a three-way race that includes Walker in its most recent poll.

McCrory adviser Jordan Shaw said an internal late-fall poll showed his candidate up by 14 percentage points over Budd in a three-way race and 15 percentage points ahead with Walker out of the contest.

“They’re trying to justify millions spent on their bought-and-paid for Congressman,” Shaw said in a text. “Our internals show McCrory up 15 head-to-head. They’ve bought Budd’s vote but they can’t buy this seat.”

Polling conducted by Public Opinion Strategies in October for McCrory’s campaign showed McCrory with 40% support to Budd’s 25% and Walker trailing far behind at 8%.

Since the October poll, Club for Growth has ramped up its attacks on McCrory, who it is accusing of ethical lapses. It has also launched advertisements informing voters that Budd received an endorsement from Trump, in an effort to peel off support from the race’s other Republicans and shift it to Budd.

Club for Growth says the ads it has been running have been effective, especially in the Greensboro area. After two weeks of broadcast ads highlighting comments McCrory made about Trump that were edited to make them seem more unflattering, the group says its polling shows McCrory’s unfavorable rating in that part of the state, 42%, is nearly even with his favorable rating, 43%.

McCrory is better known across the state than Budd, which is a contributing factor to voter opinion.

Budd has just 60% name identification, while 91% of voters polled for Club for Growth said they recognized McCrory’s name.

Jonathan Felts, senior advisor to Budd, said in a statement that McCrory “peaked on the first day of his campaign and it’s been downhill ever since” for the GOP politician who lost his 2016 reelection bid to current North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

“North Carolinians don’t want a career politician who doesn’t support President Donald Trump’s America First Agenda,” Felts said. “North Carolinians want a job creator like Ted Budd because they know he’s the true conservative who will fight to protect and promote American jobs as his top priority.”

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

Who is running for US Senate in 2022?

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is not running for a fourth term in 2022.

Who’s in?

Republicans: Mark Walker, Jen Banwart, Pat McCrory, Ted Budd, Marjorie K. Eastman, Benjamin Griffiths, Lee Brian, Lichia Sibhatu, Charles Kenneth Moss.

Democrats: Rett Newton, Cheri Beasley, Ava Edwards, Tobias LaGrone, Constance Johnson

Libertarian: Shannon Bray

Independents (must gather signatures to qualify for ballot): Kimrey Rhinehardt, Adrien Meadows

Who’s dropped out?

Republicans: Marty Cooke

Democrats: Richard Watkins, Erica Smith, Jeff Jackson

Who is not running?

Republicans: Mark Meadows, Michael Whatley, Mark Robinson, Lara Trump

Democrats: Roy Cooper, Josh Stein

North Carolina’s primary has been rescheduled for May 17, 2022. New dates for candidate filing have not been set.

Francesca Chambers has covered the White House for more than five years across two presidencies. In 2016, she was embedded with the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. She is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.

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