Cheri Beasley’s campaign announced they raised $7.42 million in the second quarter. That’s a record in North Carolina. It also signals that Beasley is still in the race and has the support of the Democratic establishment. Nobody raises that much money without a lot of help. 

That’s a good sign. So far, the North Carolina race has taken a back seat to some higher profile Senate contests. Not much buzz has come out of Democratic circles about the Beasley-Budd match up in recent months. When the DSCC announced they were running ads this summer, North Carolina was not on the list. Beasley’s haul shows that the national Democrats still have their eye on the state.

After years of trying to pick up a seat here, some national Democrats seem to have gotten wary. They’ve spent heavily on Cal Cunningham, Deborah Ross, and Kay Hagan, but have come up short. The last time Democrats scored big in the state was 2008 when North Carolina went for Barack Obama and Hagan, but that’s starting to feel like a distant memory. Democratic interest groups seem wary of investing too heavily here, especially when places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin have obviously flawed Republican candidates. It’s up to Beasley to make them want to be involved. 

The Beasley campaign has apparently put most of its effort into fundraising, and that’s where the priority should be. Still, they have not run a very aggressive campaign. Their social media game looks pretty mediocre. They haven’t struck a strong contrast with Ted Budd and they haven’t done much to excite the activist base. 

They’ve missed opportunities to land punches. In the wake of the massacres in Uvalde and Buffalo, they had a chance to hit Budd on his extremist positions on guns. He’s a gun store owner who votes in his self-interest and against the safety of our children and families. They never landed that blow, or if they did, they didn’t do it effectively enough to reach me. Maybe they were wary of talking about guns in a state like North Carolina, but that was a missed opportunity. 

To win in a year like this one, Beasley needs to be on offense, even if she’s not getting the early TV money. A creative team could excite and motivate the activist base without significantly draining the coffers. They need to make Budd the villain. Instead, they’re allowing him to define himself just like Richard Burr. 

Burr’s career is built on solid mediocrity. He’s spent the last twenty-eight years in Congress without a signature accomplishment. In fact, his achievement was keeping his head down and being a reliable GOP vote. Nobody knows a whole lot about him except that he seems like a nice guy who doesn’t wear socks. Budd seems to be following that model.  

Beasley needs to force Budd to fight on her terms, not his. She should use the success of her fundraising haul to define herself in the minds of donors and activists as a fighter not afraid to throw a punch. She’s got a good story to tell and Budd’s got a lot of baggage. She should probably spend some money to attract more. Seven million dollars is an impressive haul, but it’s going to take tens of millions more to win in November. Luring the big money to the state will take more than just a fundraising operation. Campaigns win races in states like North Carolina because they take risks and exploit opportunities. It’s time for Beasley to do both. 

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