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North Carolina Takes Center Stage in 2024 Elections
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North Carolina Takes Center Stage in 2024 Elections

Plus: The Club for Growth pumps the brakes in Montana’s GOP Senate primary.

Rep. Dan Bishop speaks before a rally for former President Donald Trump on April 9, 2022 in Selma, North Carolina. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

Happy Wednesday! A tough news cycle for President Joe Biden’s dog. Per the New York Post: “President Biden’s nearly 2-year-old German shepherd Commander bit seven people in a four-month span after former first dog Major was ousted from the White House over similar aggressive behavior, according to internal Secret Service records reviewed by The Post.”

Up to Speed

  • After a million-dollar gambit to secure 40,000 unique donors, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum received 1 percent support in a national poll released Tuesday by Morning Consult, making Burgum the seventh GOP candidate to qualify for the upcoming Republican debate in Milwaukee.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign fired one-third of its staff amid an aggressive effort to cut costs and streamline campaign operations, according to Politico. The campaign also intends for DeSantis to participate in more town halls and intimate gatherings after sticking mostly to speeches and fireside chats in Iowa and New Hampshire, Bloomberg reports.
  • DeSantis is unhurt after a multi-car crash in which four cars in his motorcade collided en route to a campaign event in Tennessee Tuesday morning. DeSantis continued to the event, where a female staffer received treatment for a minor injury, according to police.
  • The Biden administration sued Texas on Monday for deploying a barrier of buoys in the Rio Grande river that separates the U.S. from Mexico. The administration argues the unauthorized border security measure violates federal law and filed the lawsuit after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas refused to comply with a U.S. Department of Justice request to remove the barrier. “Texas has the sovereign authority to defend our border, under the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution,” tweeted Abbott. “We will see you in court, Mr. President.”
  • In response to House Republicans’ probes into Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China, Ukraine, and other countries—which Republicans allege involve Joe Biden—House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he expects an impeachment inquiry to follow. “I believe we will follow this all the way to the end, and this is going to rise to an impeachment inquiry the way the Constitution tells us to do this,” said McCarthy on Fox News. “Their eagerness to go after [Biden] regardless of the truth is seemingly bottomless,” tweeted White House spokesman Ian Sams. 
  • The Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund and One Nation announced record fundraising hauls in the first half of this year. “The Senate GOP-aligned groups together raised roughly $38 million—$10.1 million for SLF and $28.2 million for One Nation—giving Republicans a boost in their bid to flip the chamber next year,” Politico reports. “For SLF, that’s more than double what they brought in during the same time period last cycle.”

Freedom Caucus Member Likely to Run Statewide in North Carolina

Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina, a Republican and member of the House Freedom Caucus who initially opposed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s bid for the gavel in January, is accelerating plans to run for attorney general in 2024 and could announce a statewide bid as soon as August, five people familiar with the matter tell The Dispatch. Two North Carolina House Republicans also confirmed Bishop has approached them about a potential run.

“I wouldn’t say he’s 100 percent yet, but I think it’s getting there,” says one person with knowledge of Bishop’s plans. 

Bishop’s campaign team confirmed his interest in running, which Axios first reported in May, but declined to provide a timeline for his prospective announcement. “This is a two month old story—Congressman Bishop continues to consider his final decision,” a Bishop campaign spokesperson tells The Dispatch

A statewide run from Bishop would put pressure on Republican attorney general candidate Tom Murry—who intends to stay in the race if Bishop jumps into the primary, a source familiar to him confirms—and open the floodgates to a competitive GOP primary race for Bishop’s deep-red congressional seat that stretches from Charlotte to the Piedmont Triad. And it would add another wrinkle to an already jampacked electoral news cycle in North Carolina, where Republicans are gearing up to redraw the congressional and state legislative maps in their favor this fall. 

A Competitive Governor’s Race in the Tarheel State

Beyond the attorney general race, North Carolina Republicans are laser-focused on recapturing the governorship. That’s shaping up to be a tall order considering the GOP has won the governor’s race just once in the past three decades.

North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein has emerged as the early favorite in the Democratic primary to succeed term-limited Gov. Roy Cooper, though retiring state Supreme Court Justice Michael Morgan is strongly considering throwing his hat in the ring. And Republicans maintain this cycle’s congressional redistricting factor adds another degree of uncertainty to the Democratic gubernatorial field. 

“Imagine the congressional map gets redrawn and as many as three—maybe more—but at least three Democrats become convinced that they just have no path to reelection,” says John Hood, president of the conservative John William Pope Foundation. “Why wouldn’t one of them run for governor? Why should we assume that Josh Stein should just be nominated by acclamation?”

On the right side of the aisle, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has emerged as the clear frontrunner in the GOP field with a tight grip on the party’s base. But behind closed doors Republican political operatives air concerns about his general election viability over his checkered personal and campaign finance history as well as controversial comments he’s made in the past about Jews, school shooting survivors, and gay people—comments that are expected to attract heaps of Democratic donors to North Carolina ahead of the general election.

Robinson, the first black lieutenant governor in North Carolina history, has privately acknowledged these concerns. “I know there’s probably a lot of stuff out there swirling around … People are trying to put doubt in the air about our campaign—about me. But none of that stuff is true, I guarantee you,” Robinson told a prospective Republican donor in a voicemail obtained by The Dispatch in June.

Former GOP Rep. Mark Walker, state Treasurer Dale Folwell, and former state legislator Andy Wells are also seeking the Republican nomination for governor. 

Might the Republican gubernatorial field expand? “If Mark Robinson shows some vulnerability down here, you’ll see other people look at it,” says Paul Shumaker, a veteran GOP strategist based in North Carolina. “Question is going to be, does he show vulnerability or not.”

How are North Carolina Democrats Feeling?

At the top of the ticket, North Carolina Democrats are bullish on their chances of keeping the governor’s mansion and possibly even flipping the state blue on the presidential level for the first time since Barack Obama in 2008. Joe Biden lost the state by 1.3 points in 2020.

The Democratic National Committee has already begun running ad campaigns in the state highlighting the president’s economic strategy, and it also plans to invest heavily in the party’s efforts to mobilize voters on abortion. Biden’s campaign team has tapped Gov. Roy Cooper and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles to serve on the president’s national advisory board. 

“During the 2022 midterm elections, the DNC more than doubled its investment over the 2018 election cycle in North Carolina and is the largest national investor in the coordinated campaign, which supports Cheri Beasley’s campaign for Senate and other Democrats up and down the ballot,” a DNC official tells The Dispatch.

But money isn’t enough to win elections. And despite Democrats’ better-than-expected midterm results in contested Senate battlegrounds last fall, Beasley lost her 2022 Senate race to Republican Ted Budd by 3 points.

Hood says the 2022 midterms left Tarheel State Democrats feeling somber about 2024 despite their public bravado. “They got some seats in Congress … But they didn’t win the seats that they were expecting to win in the legislature, which is what they care about more,” says Hood, who also serves on the board of the John Locke Foundation. “Their level of optimism is lower than usual.”

Club for Growth Softens Support for Rosendale in Montana

The Club for Growth, an anti-tax group that spends millions in Republican primaries, appears to have walked back its support for GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale in Montana’s U.S. Senate race. In February, the president of the Club for Growth, David McIntosh, said that if Rosendale entered the Senate race, he’d be a candidate “we’d want to support again,” as the Club did in 2018. Rosendale won the Republican primary that year but lost in the fall to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. 

However, McIntosh did not endorse Rosendale on Monday evening, instead telling reporters, “Matt has not yet decided to run. If he does, we’re going to take a close look at that race and figure out what the best answer is.” The Club for Growth says it considers former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy an “impressive candidate.” Sheehy announced his Republican campaign to take on Tester last month and is the preferred candidate of Sen. Steve Daines, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

Rosendale’s campaign spokesperson pushed back on the notion that Club might back Sheehy and insisted in a statement to National Journal the congressman has a “strong” relationship with the group. 

Notable and Quotable

“… Republican megadonors and influencers—large and small—are going to have to do something they didn’t do in 2016: get candidates they support to agree to withdraw if and when their paths to the nomination are effectively closed. That decision day should be no later than, say, Feb. 26, the Monday following the contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.”

—GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Monday, July 24

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Audrey is a former reporter for The Dispatch.

Thomas Dorsey is an intern for The Dispatch.