North Carolina Republicans reject a candidate strongly endorsed by President Trump in a primary election to fill the vacancy created when Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) resigned from Congress to accept the position serve as the president’s chief of staff, with the loss creating another embarrassing political defeat for Trump.
Political newcomer Madison Cawthorn breezed past Lynda Bennett, President Donald Trump’s pick for Mark Meadows’ seat in Congress representing North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District in a two-person GOP runoff election June 23, by a two to one margin.
The vacancy was created when Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) resigned from Congress to serve as Trump’s chief of staff and the president had repeatedly urged his supporters to back Bennett in the race for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district.
In spite of the president’s endorsement, voters chose to go with a political newcomer instead.
“A 24-year-old motivational speaker has defeated the Republican candidate endorsed by President Donald Trump and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in a GOP runoff for Meadows’ old congressional seat, according to unofficial results,” the Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday evening. “Madison Cawthorn defeated Lynda Bennett in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District in far-western North Carolina. He was leading with 65% of the vote with nearly all of precincts reporting. The Associated Press called the race in Cawthorn’s favor at 8:47 p.m.”
The embarrassing setback, adding to a number of recent political gaffs and losses for Trump and comes on the heels of the recent fiasco at his much hyped Tulsa rally last Saturday. And Twitter users were quick to jump on the result, pointing to another sign that Trump is simply losing his political pull within his own party. Here are a few examples:
Voters have now snubbed the president’s recommendation in at least three recent congressional races, blemishing his previously undefeated record. On Tuesday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) handily won the Republican primary after Trump called him a “disaster for America” and a “third-rate grandstander” when Massie opposed the coronavirus stimulus package in March.
Earlier this month, self-described biblical conservative Bob Good ousted incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) in a primary convention in Virginia’s 5th District, despite Riggleman’s endorsement from Trump. That was the first time this election cycle, out of 73 races, that a Trump favorite did not win.
Cawthorn will face off against Democrat Moe Davis, a former military prosecutor, in November in the GOP-leaning district, which encompasses western North Carolina’s mountainous region. If elected, Cawthorn would become the youngest member in the House; the Constitution requires members of the House be at least 25 to hold office. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who is 30, is the youngest member right now.
Bennett has yet to concede as of early Wednesday morning, but the state GOP accepted the results.
Trump’s endorsed candidate works in real estate and had outgunned the political neophyte Cawthorn in almost every respect. She outraised him, $366,500 to Cawthorn’s $201,700, according to campaign finance filings. She collected the endorsements of major conservative groups, such as the House Freedom Fund, the American Conservative Union and Susan B. Anthony List, a PAC opposed to abortion rights. With the Trump endorsements she looked like a shoe-in, only to suffer what turned out to be an embarrassing loss for both her and President Trump.
Then Trump threw his support behind Bennett on Twitter twice, on June 4 and again on June 16.
Cawthorn, taking a page out of the Trump playbook, campaigned against Bennett by associating her flashy endorsements as a sign that she was the swampier, establishment favorite and that he was the independent candidate beholden to no one. He bashed Bennett for declining to debate him, saying in one ad that she had failed to “show up for the job interview.”
“I won’t cower behind big-name endorsements, and I certainly won’t be beholden to any PAC bosses,” he said.
On Tuesday night, the North Carolina Republican Party congratulated Cawthorn and said it had full confidence he would defeat his Democratic opponent in November.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump must be wondering what is happening around him with another sign that the GOP seems to be coming out from under his spell after a series of political errors and miscalculations from the president in recent months and that breach is an advantage that conservative opposition groups like the Lincoln Project, Republican Voters Against Trump, the Bulwark and others are sure to pounce on in the coming weeks.