Full disclosure: I consult for the Pat Timmons-Goodson for Congress campaign. The sentiments here are mine alone.

In the wake of the Atlantic article that says Donald Trump repeatedly made belittling remarks about the military, Joe Biden is moving to drive a wedge between the military and the president. He’s releasing ads in areas near military bases touting his support for the troops and his experience as a military father. His son, Beau, served a year in Iraq.

In North Carolina, the battle for support of veterans and active duty service members could affect races down the ballot. North Carolina has several military bases, including Fort Bragg, the largest military installation in the country. Cumberland County, where Fort Bragg is centered, is a crucial county for Democrats running statewide and is the largest county in the state’s most competitive Congressional district. Cumberland also has several of the most competitive legislative races and Democrat Kirk DeViere, an incumbent state senator there, is a veteran.

Trump has vehemently denied that he called Americans who lost their lives in wars “losers” or “suckers” as reported in the Atlantic, but he has a public record that disparages military heroes and families. Despite his denials, Trump is on record saying John McCain is “not a hero.” He insulted a Gold Star family after the father of a slain US soldier criticized him at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. He has largely ignored reports that Russian intelligence agents put bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan.  

The Atlantic article has been verified by numerous outlets including the Washington Post, New York Times, AP, and even Fox News. Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin verified the story, saying, “My source told me when the President spoke about the Vietnam War he said, ‘It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker.’ The President would say about American veterans, ‘What’s in it for them? They don’t make any money.’” The Atlantic story said Trump related that sentiment to then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly while visiting Kelly’s son’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. Kelly’s silence on the quote essentially confirms its accuracy.

In particular, the episode could hurt Republicans Thom Tillis and Richard Hudson. Both need to increase their performance in Democratic Cumberland County to win re-election. Hudson has based his campaign on two pillars: his support for Donald Trump and his support for veterans. Hudson responded quickly to the report calling it “garbage” in a tweet, but it has been confirmed by members of the military that he claims to support. Pentagon officials have little reason to lie about the episodes, but Trump has every reason to do so. Hudson has clearly thrown his lot with a president who has a solid history of disparaging our troops. He needs to hope the story goes away. Tillis has avoided the controversy altogether by staying silent. Both men know Trump’s character, despite their silence or denials.

The two have reason to worry. A Military Times poll showed Trump losing to Joe Biden by four points among active military personnel. Trump’s favorability numbers are also upside down with 50% having an unfavorable view of him and only 38% approving. The continued drip, drip, drip of negative stories about Trump and the military is apparently starting to take a toll. If that extends to other Republicans, it could sink people like Hudson and Tillis who are dependent on support from veterans and the military. Joe Biden is trying to drive the point home.

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