Pat McCrory is expected to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate today. Or at least he’s making some sort of announcement on his radio show. If he jumps in, he’s joining former Congressman Mark Walker and likely candidate Rep. Ted Budd. Lara Trump is still undecided. 

It’s very hard for me to take Pat McCrory seriously. He’s not a very bright guy and he proved as governor that he has little backbone or conviction. He arrived in Raleigh as an establishment Republican, burnishing his business-friendly, socially moderate credentials. He quickly got rolled by the legislature and left office the Father of HB2 and a culture warrior. He’s Thom Tillis without the smarts—an ideological weather vane. Though I’m not sure he’s bright enough to have much ideology at all.

The primary will be a Trump primary. Candidates will jostle to claim to be most like the conman and carnival barker who recently inhabited the White House. Republicans who once were serious people will all line up behind one candidate or the other and try to defend their support of candidates who mimic a man they once considered a joke. 

Mark Walker has already started. When he heard about McCrory’s potential candidacy, Walker tweeted, “If Pat wasn’t good enough for Trump’s administration, he’s not good enough for NC.” He’s reminding Republicans that McCrory sought a position in the Trump administration but was passed over. Ironically, if McCrory had taken a position, he likely would have gotten fired and dissed like so many other Trump appointees. The only reason McCrory is viable is because he can still claim Trump loyalty. Otherwise, he would probably end up like Jeff Sessions in Alabama. Loyalty to Trump only goes one way. 

If Budd or any other Members of Congress really get into the primary, it could have repercussions for redistricting. Republicans in the General Assembly who are drawing new districts will have more leeway in drawing districts that house Representatives not seeking re-election. For instance, some of Budd’s most conservative voters could go into NC-08 to better insulate Congressman Richard Hudson from areas that are growing more Democratic. If Budd stays in Congress, he will probably want to keep as many of his old constituents as possible to protect his name recognition. 

The Republican primary for U.S. Senate could shake up North Carolina politics. It will almost certainly solidify the perception that the GOP is now the party of Trump instead of the party of Reagan. People who once saw themselves as small-government, business friendly conservatives will jockey to become the populist imitators of Trump. Thinly veiled racism and xenophobia will dominate the debate. What’s old is new again in the modern Republican Party.    


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