The New York Times ran a largely speculative piece this morning that explored whether Lara Trump, political novice and daughter-in-law of disgraced, defeated former President Donald J. Trump, will descend upon North Carolina for a Senate campaign. The dilettante has reportedly been mulling it over for months, and Senator Burr’s vote for conviction in the second impeachment trial has revived talk in MAGA circles that Lara will enter the race. Her entry could electrify the GOP primary electorate and disrupt the election in ways that are hard to predict.
Lara Trump first floated herself as a candidate about a month after her-father-in-law went down to an ignominious defeat. Full of entitlement and lacking humility as is common in her brood, the wife of Eric seems to have thought that being a U.S. Senator would be a fun thing in which to dabble. She tantalized the media for several weeks until the January 6 terrorist attack on the U.S. capitol, which the Times reports cooled her interest in a run. Dallas Woodhouse (!) of Carolina Journal had reported earlier that a 100-county tour, necessary to establish the credibility of a clear carpetbagger, was another obstacle to her campaign.
That she registered a self-introduction tour as a burden says much about her seriousness as a politician. Prior to her father-in-law barging in on the workings of the American republic, she had pieced together a resume that made Cal Cunningham look like George H. W. Bush. In her stint as a Trump scion, she has been a personal trainer and a TV producer. Add to that a few months whipping up frenzies at MAGA rallies, and you have a person who thinks she belongs in the U.S. Senate.
And yet, and yet. She has the potential to rock the boat of NC politics. Nowhere is the conservative grassroots more thoroughly Trump-ized than in the Tar Heel State. North Carolina Republican voters turned out at a staggering rate of 81% to vote for the old demagogue. In fact, the NCGOP was “Trumpist before Trump,” embracing authoritarian populism as far back as 2013. There would be an appetite for an authentic Trump in a primary populated by candidates seeking to recreate his populist magic.
Lara Trump would enter the Republican primary as a front runner. Mark Walker, a Trump ally, is already in the race and has some statewide name recognition, but he is a mainstream politician unlikely to electrify GOP voters. Trump would have universal name recognition (if only because of her surname) and devotion from the MAGA hardcore. But another candidate has the potential to obstruct her glide-path to the nomination: Pat McCrory. The former governor (like Trump’s father-in-law, a general-election loser) has name recognition from his term in office and loyalty from Republican voters who still think HB2 was a noble fight.
The possibility of a McCrory campaign is just one factor making Trump’s senate candidacy less of a fun adventure than she seems to think. Another is the general election. Despite what she and many MAGA-heads have long thought, North Carolina is not a ruby-red bastion similar to the likes of South Carolina and Mississippi. While on the redder side of purple, the state has had top-of-the-ballot contests fall within 4% in every election since 2008, with the exception of the national Republican mega-year of 2010. The Democratic nominee will be a potent force.
In the final analysis, a senate campaign does not seem like a very favorable prospect for Lara Trump. But never underestimate the self-delusion and sheer raging narcissism of the Trump family. Lara likely believes her native state is full of easily manipulated hicks who will welcome her home with rapturous cheers. She may go through with it, and North Carolina will be worse off for her egotism.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.