State Senator Jeff Jackson announced today that he will has decided to withdraw from the Democratic primary for United States Senate. The move was likely prudent, given his disadvantage in recent opinion polling, and public-spirited in the sense that his withdrawal from the race will clear room for Cheri Beasley to build a general election campaign. While Democrats like Jackson and former state Senator Eric Smith are sacrificing for the good of their party, Republicans are tearing each other apart. This contrast may just give Democrats the special circumstances they need to win a U.S. Senate seat.

First, the Democrats. Jackson’s move reflects a political realism that is admirable in a politician who has drawn interest from statewide activists ever since entering office at the age of 31. Senator Jackson saw the way the race was trending and bowed out, knowing that the only way for a white-male candidate to defeat the accomplished African American, Cheri Beasley, would be to attack a distinguished public servant, causing heartburn within the party. Now, Beasley can concentrate on building a financial and organizational infrastructure for the general election while consolidating support from Democratic panjandrums and activists alike. Jackson clearly did what was best for the party.

Meanwhile, the right-wing Club for Growth has gone on a ferocious tear against former Governor Pat McCrory. In television ads and an extraordinary 12-page direct-mail piece, the Club has charged McCrory with anemic support for the God-Emperor of Red America, one Donald J. Trump, and a supposed affinity for the Chinese Communist Party. These attacks have cut so deeply into McCrory’s image that, even though he still leads in public and private polling, the erratic governor has panicked, even pulling off the classic maneuver of a candidate losing ground by challenging the Club’s choice, Ted Budd, to a debate. The Republican primary is already ugly and divisive, and six months remain for it to get worse.

Make no mistake: divisive primaries can weaken a party in the general election. McCrory himself benefited from the ugly Democratic primary between Richard Moore and Bev Perdue during “Mayor Pat’s” 2008 run for governor. At the presidential level, Newt Gingrich paved the way for the Obama-Biden campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record as a vulture capitalist. And Bernie Sanders’s attacks on Hillary Clinton for accepting speaking fees from Goldman Sachs was directly adopted by Trump in his effort to portray Clinton as the epitome of the Washington swamp. The McCrory-Budd demolition derby can only leave the eventual nominee tarnsihed.

So. Senator Jackson has given up a decent shot at becoming the nominee for U.S. Senate in order to strengthen his party. Due to his decision, Justice Beasley will have the time and space to construct the strongest possible campaign in what is likely to be a tough midterm election. Meanwhile, Pat McCrory and Ted Budd along with Budd’s Washington henchmen are spiraling downward into a destructive exchange of attacks that will harm party unity and the image of the eventual nominee. The 2022 election is still likely to take place in an environment friendly to the GOP, but as of today, the North Carolina Democratic Party has gained an important advantage.

They’ve also gained a candidate for North Carolina Attorney General.


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