Despite high-profile national defections, North Carolina Republicans expressed hope Monday that Donald Trump’s latest controversy will have minimal impact on GOP candidates in the state.
But that doesn’t mean they’re confident.
“This thing is fluid as a roller coaster,” said Paul Shumaker, the top strategist for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll Monday showed Democrat Hillary Clinton has opened up a double-digit lead over Trump nationally after Friday’s release of a 2005 video of the GOP nominee making lewd comments about women.
GOP candidates from across the country have either demanded Trump step down as their nominee or said they won’t vote for him. House Speaker Paul Ryan Monday told colleagues on a conference call that he would no longer defend Trump or campaign for him.
But Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said after a conference call Monday with GOP leaders around the country that the party remains firmly behind Trump.
And the N.C. Democratic Party Monday released an online video that features parts of the 2005 Trump tape along with images of Burr saying he’s “fully supportive” of Trump.
Burr, like Gov. Pat McCrory, has condemned Trump’s remarks from the 2005 tape. But they haven’t withdrawn their support.
A ‘potential collapse’
Speaking outside a Charlotte appearance by Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence Monday, N.C. Republican Chairman Robin Hayes called Trump’s remarks “inexcusable.” But he said Republicans are keeping sight of larger issues.
“Far more important (than his comments) is what’s the biggest issue?” Hayes said. “His words or her (Clinton’s) actions? Her actions over 30 years are absolutely not going to be wiped away by words that he said in 2005.”
Republican consultant Larry Shaheen of Mecklenburg County said it’s too early to tell the effect Trump’s videotape will have on down-ballot races. But he said he tells clients not to depend on the Trump campaign to help them.
“Right now I think that every candidate is responsible for their own ground game and get-out-the-vote,” he said. “I’ve advised every candidate that I’ve had to prepare for this eventuality: a potential Trump collapse.”
Even some Republican candidates themselves have reservations about voting for Trump.
“I don’t really want to vote for either one of them, I’ve never been more disappointed in my life,” said GOP Rep. Craig Horn of Union County. “I seriously question the temperament and ability of both these candidates to be president of the united states. So I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Former Rep. Dale Folwell, the GOP nominee for state treasurer, said he will “make my decision on election day.”
“I do not think and would never say or do many things that Trump has said or done,” he said, “and it is wrong.”
Former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot, a Republican, said he has always voted in presidential elections but has “terrible reservations” about this one.
“Probably I’m not going to vote for (Trump),” he said. “But what I do with my vote I don’t know … I was on the fence before that (tape) but that was just awful.”
The Trump tape could affect state races in other ways. It didn’t just shove new revelations about Clinton emails into the background, it may have made it harder for Burr’s campaign to get much attention for new charges involving Democrat Deborah Ross’s tenure with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Shumaker, the Burr strategist, said some of those controversies could hurt Ross with the same suburban women who might be turned off by Trump. “If anything I will tell you that Ross is a higher risk for down-ballot Democrats than Donald Trump will be for down-ballot Republicans,” he said.
But Thomas Mills, a Democratic consultant running for Congress in the 8th District, said he expects many Republican voters to stay home.
“If they can’t vote for Hillary and they’re not going to vote for Trump, they’re not coming out,” Mills said. “A ‘wave’ election is not just that one side is motivated, it’s that the other side is depressed.”
Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state GOP, said he always expected North Carolina races to be close.
“I wouldn’t say we have any additional worries in the last few days that we haven’t had for a year,” he said. “When you’re this close on the margins, you’re worried that anything can affect it.”