Posted by on May 12, 2022 6:56 am
Categories: News Washington Examiner

Midterm Memo: Trump endorsement prestige on line in Cawthorn GOP primary fight

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., speaks to the crowd before former President Donald Trump takes the stage at a rally Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Selma, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) Chris Seward/AP

Midterm Memo: Trump endorsement prestige on line in Cawthorn GOP primary fight

David M. Drucker May 12, 06:00 AMMay 12, 06:00 AM Video Embed

HENDERSONVILLE, North Carolina — Rep. Madison Cawthorn has an opportunity to do something few Republicans have managed to accomplish: beat former President Donald Trump not once but twice.

The first time Cawthorn ran for office, he upset the Trump-endorsed candidate in the 11th Congressional District primary. Two years later, it appears distinctly possible Cawthorn might fall to challenger Chuck Edwards, a state senator, or Michele Woodhouse, a former local party official, in the May 17 nominating contest. If he is defeated, Cawthorn will have notched Trump a second defeat, because this time around, the congressman is running with the imprimatur of the former president’s coveted endorsement.

Is Cawthorn running scared, or at least, as the campaign cliche goes, running as though he’s behind to make every effort to avoid defeat? It’s hard to tell. His campaign will not respond to the Washington Examiner’s inquiries, nor did the congressman’s team answer our request for information on Cawthorn supporters we might talk to or grassroots activity on his behalf we might cover during our few days crisscrossing his sprawling western North Carolina seat.

Our inquiry did appear to generate this welcoming tweet, however. “Sounds like there are more reporters from the beltway media in NC-11 today than there are in Washington,” Cawthorn wrote Tuesday in a Twitter post. “Enjoy the most beautiful district in the nation! Glad our campaign is bringing tourism to Western North Carolina.” (Fact check: Mostly true. The district is visually stunning, although there are others that compete with it.)

Polling in the contest is scarce, and some Republican insiders in North Carolina are betting Cawthorn survives on the strength of his fervent grassroots support ad affiliation with former President Trump. But there is a sense among some conservative activists in the 11th Congressional District that Cawthorn might have worn out his welcome. Edwards and Woodhouse are certainly convinced of that, with both claiming more momentum than the other down the stretch of this crucial primary.


For the political nerds in the audience, Cawthorn, Edwards, and Woodhouse have one thing in common that could have an impact on the outcome: All three are based in Hendersonville, a vibrant community of 14,000 with a trendy main street situated 25 miles south of Asheville. After that, the three Republicans part ways, however.

Edwards is running on conservative competence, promising to replace a vapid show horse with a substantive workhorse who passes legislation important to the 11th Congressional District. Woodhouse is running as a “Make America Great Again” firebrand who will carry the Trump banner in on Capitol Hill without being a mega-embarrassment. In interviews with the Washington Examiner this week, they both unloaded on Cawthorn — and each other.

“The people of these mountains are tired of political rhetoric. They’re tired of folks in D.C. just seeking political stardom. They’re frustrated with D.C. politicians that are more interested in their political careers than getting word done,” Edwards said. “In this district, we’ve undergone a 14-month experiment. The experiment is over.”

As for attacks from Woodhouse that he is nothing more than a “go along to get along” establishment Republican? “I find it ironic, while Ms. Woodhouse had her party hat on, her Republican Party hat, she was very complementary of the job that I did in Raleigh,” Edwards said. “Now that she has her candidate hat on, she’s done an about-face.”

Woodhouse is the former 11th District Republican Party chairman. Her grassroots bona fides were certainly good enough for Cawthorn. The congressman recruited Woodhouse to run for his seat after he filed to run for reelection in a newly configured district anchored in Charlotte in preparation for a 2026 Senate bid. Months later, after North Carolina’s initial redistricting map was thrown out by a court, Cawthorn returned home and left Woodhouse a voicemail informing her he was running in the 11th after all.

Woodhouse, who had backed Cawthorn in his primary in 2020, refused to back down, despite pressure from the congressman’s staff. “I think he thought I was going to drop out of the race. We didn’t even think for a minute that we were going to ever drop out of the race,” she said. “He lacks humility and maturity and accountability — and every headline and every story continue to reinforce those things.”

“We feel very, very good about our chances,” Woodhouse added. “We’ve won every straw poll and every debate, we’ve won them all, handily.”

Now, to the (rest of the) field …

Trump wins. The former president scored a key victory Tuesday in the West Virginia primary for the 2nd Congressional District when Rep. Alex Mooney beat fellow Republican Rep. David McKinley. The lawmakers were pitted against each other for renomination after their state lost a House seat in decennial redistricting, and Trump endorsed Mooney. The former president grew disenchanted with McKinley, an otherwise staunch Trump supporter, because he supported certification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory after the 2020 election and because he voted for Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure package. With McKinley’s ouster, the House Republican conference is a bit Trumpier than it used to be. Trump loses. The former president experienced his first major defeat of the 2022 primary season, and saw the limitations of his considerable political powers, when Jim Pillen won the Republican nomination for governor in Nebraska. Trump had backed businessman Charles Herbster and traveled to the Cornhusker State recently to buck up his candidacy with one of his signature campaign rallies. But Pillen, supported by term-limited Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and the wealthy Ricketts family, claimed a victory that puts him on a glide path to the governor’s mansion in November. Herbster was in second place with 30% of the vote as the race was called for Pillen, who was in front with 33%. But combined with the 26% who backed Brett Lindstrom, support for Herbster was dwarfed by the share of the vote against him.


Missouri Senate race. Don’t count out Eric Greitens — so says his campaign. This week, the former governor’s team produced an internal poll showing him leading a crowded pack of Republican primary candidates. If this survey is accurate, it means that even fresh revelations of alleged sexual misconduct leveled by Greitens’s ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, on top of the sexual misconduct that forced him to resign from the governor’s mansion in 2018, have not been enough to puncture his Senate campaign.That’s bad news for Republican insiders in Washington, D.C., and Missouri, who have been begging Trump to endorse anyone but Greitens in this primary, fearing he would lose the general election despite the GOP’s dominance in the state. Trump is intrigued by Greitens because he is promising to oppose Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and any suggestion that he is viable could make him comfortable with endorsing the former governor. The primary in Missouri is Aug. 2. © 2022 Washington Examiner

Originally appeared at Washington Examiner

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