Even as Republicans pour more ground forces into North Carolina, a top GOP strategist has warned that the “Trump Factor” could be costly for GOP candidates this fall.
Paul Shumaker, whose clients include U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, told Pittenger in a private memo that 20 percent of N.C. Republicans view Donald Trump unfavorably – and many of them could stay home.
“If (that) happens, this will have a potential negative impact of 3 to 6 percentage points for all GOP candidates,” Shumaker said in the memo obtained by the Observer.
Shumaker’s warning came days before the Republican National Committee announced Friday that it’s sending 392 new field operatives to battleground states. Sources say more than 100 will come to North Carolina.
That will bring the total North Carolina staff to 160, with more than 700 neighborhood “team leaders” and volunteers.
“North Carolina is critical this cycle and that’s why the RNC is increasing its field staff in the state to build upon the operation that’s already existed,” said RNC spokeswoman Kara Carter.
Clinton N.C. spokesman Andrew Bates declined to say how many organizers the campaign has, but said staff has been on the ground for months and now have 30 campaign field offices. “We continue to reach out to voters across the state to register them and discuss the importance of electing Hillary Clinton and Democrats up and down the ballot,” he said in a statement.
Polls show Trump virtually tied with Democrat Hillary Clinton. Both are unpopular. A recent Emerson College poll showed 55.5 percent of N.C. voters view Clinton unfavorably while 57.4 percent have a negative impression of Trump.
In his Aug. 28 memo to Pittenger, Shumaker said Trump has failed to solidify support among fellow Republicans.
On average, 20 percent of registered Republicans remain unfavorable to Trump, with these unfavorable numbers rising in the urban and suburban centers of which most of the conservative parts of the 9th district is comprised of.
Shumaker, in a memo to U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger
“On average, 20 percent of registered Republicans remain unfavorable to Trump, with these unfavorable numbers rising in the urban and suburban centers of which most of the conservative parts of the 9th district is comprised of,” he wrote, adding that those voters are likely to vote for a third-party candidate or stay home.
Shumaker’s estimate that anti-Trump Republicans could cost GOP candidates up to 6 percentage points at the polls is consistent with other estimates. Vox puts the electoral cost at 4.6 points. It calls that “the Trump Tax.”
Burr supports Trump, but has appeared to distance himself in some ways and rarely appeared with the candidate in North Carolina. He has a 2.6-point lead over Democrat Deborah Ross in the latest polling average from Real Clear Politics.
The GOP divisions were evident at the Republican National Convention, where delegates from North Carolina and elsewhere were split over their nominee. And they were reflected in a tweet Friday from conservative John Hood, president of the Pope Foundation.
Hillary Clinton is distrusted because she is dishonest. Donald Trump is despised because he is despicable. No need to overthink this.
Tweet from John Hood, president of the Pope Foundation
“Hillary Clinton is distrusted because she is dishonest,” he tweeted. “Donald Trump is despised because he is despicable. No need to overthink this.”
In an interview Friday, Shumaker said he expects what he calls “Romney Republicans” to come around for the nominee. Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney called Trump “a fraud” and a “phony.”
“Donald Trump has an easier pathway to victory in North Carolina than Hillary Clinton does,” Shumaker said. “The only thing he has to do is unite the base.”
In his memo, Shumaker said candidates such as Pittenger should compensate for any potential falloff in the GOP vote.
“The Pittenger for Congress campaign must budget additional dollars for a conservative voter turnout operation (most likely a call center), something a congressional campaign normally does not do in a Presidential election cycle,” he wrote.
In the interview, he said independent voters could hold the key to the election.
“How that group responds is sort of the $64,000 question,” he said.
Both Trump and Clinton will be in North Carolina next week. Trump is scheduled to talk about immigration at a Tuesday rally in Greenville. Clinton holds a Thursday fundraiser in Charlotte.