World News | North Carolina Senate Race Tests Trump’s Endorsement Power

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RALEIGH, N.C. — When Ted Budd won a surprise endorsement from former President Donald Trump last year, he was a little-known congressman running for a Senate seat in North Carolina against some of the state’s most recognizable Republicans, including a former governor.

As he enters the final stretch before the state’s May 17 primary, Budd is again hoping for a boost, banking on the power of Trump’s endorsement to put him on top of a field that includes a dozen other Republicans.

“We feel we’ve got strong momentum,” Budd told The Associated Press. “Whether it’s grassroots, trend lines in polling or fundraising, we think we’re in a very good place.”

Budd’s candidacy will serve as an early test of whether Trump’s backing is powerful enough to lift someone from relative obscurity to the GOP nomination for a critical Senate seat. A strong showing by Budd could provide clues about how Trump-backed candidates in other states, including Georgia, that vote in quick succession after North Carolina, will fare.

The race “will be a test of the Trump effect on North Carolina among North Carolina Republicans, I think not just for North Carolina but nationally,” said Mike Rusher, a political consultant who previously worked for the state GOP.

Democrats have made inroads across the South in recent years, winning a presidential election in Georgia in 2020 for the first time in 28 years and picking up two Senate seats.

North Carolina has experienced similar demographic changes, driven by an influx of new residents to the Raleigh and Charlotte areas. But for now, Democrats have struggled to make the same progress in the state’s presidential and Senate races. Barack Obama was the last Democratic presidential contender to carry North Carolina in 2008, and a Democrat hasn’t won a Senate seat since Kay Hagan the same year.

Trump will return to the state on Saturday for a rally in rural Johnston County, just southeast of Raleigh. He was a boon to North Carolina Republicans in the 2020 campaign, boosting turnout so that GOP candidates — with few exceptions — won races up and down the ballot even as Trump himself only narrowly eked out a win.

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