The Donald Trump-endorsed candidate in the North Carolina Senate race told an interviewer that Joe Biden was the ‘legitimate president’ beating his opponent fair and square by seven million votes in a little noticed video that is getting fresh attention.
Trump heads to the state on Saturday to boost the campaign of Ted Budd, a three-term congressman.
But his comments could raise fresh doubts about the endorsement a matter of weeks after Trump dumped Mo Brooks in Alabama for apparently ending his opposition to the 2020 result.
In a little noticed interview with the Associated Press, Budd, who voted against certifying Biden’s victory last year, is asked whether the Democrat won fair and square.
‘He did. He’s the legitimate president,’ he said in September.
He is then asked whether he accepts that Trump got seven million fewer votes than the Democratic candidate.
‘I do,’ he said.
Trump has been using his endorsements to punish Republicans who say he lost the 2020 election, backing their primary challengers, and will almost certainly use his rally in Selma, North Carolina, on Saturday to publicly berate them.
Donald Trump comes to North Carolina on Saturday to campaign for Ted Budd, who is running for Senate. At the same time video has emerged of Budd saying he believed Biden was the ‘legitimate president’ – the sort of comment that has cost candidates Trump’s endorsement
Trump announced he was endorsing Budd in June last year. The decision – backing a a rank-and-file member of Congress with little statewide name recognition – surprised many analysts
The Budd campaign said it was not worried about the comments and claimed it was being shopped around by allies of former U.S. Rep Mark Walker, currently polling third in the race, but who is chasing Trump’s affections.
‘President Donald Trump knows Ted Budd, Mark Walker, and Pat McCrory and he knows their records,’ said Jonathan Felts, senior adviser, Ted Budd for US Senate, listing the three frontrunners.
‘Their records are why President Trump didn’t hire Pat, didn’t endorse Walker, but did endorse Ted Budd.
‘Ted Budd has never wavered from the America First Agenda and President Donald Trump knows that.
‘Mark Walker is a delusional little man if he thinks President Donald Trump doesn’t know who the real America First Conservative Fighter is in this election.’
But the example of Brooks in Alabama may serve as a warning.
He had been a favorite of Trump’s after speaking at the rally on January 6 last year to oppose the election results, telling supporters ‘the fight begins today’ before they marched on the U.S. Capitol.
But he fell foul of the most powerful voice in the party after saying that it was time admit the 2020 election was lost and move on to the next campaign.
‘Mo Brooks was a leader on the 2020 Election Fraud and then, all of sudden, during the big rally in Alabama, he went ‘woke’ and decided to drop everything he stood for — when he did, the people of Alabama dropped him, and now I have done so also. The people get it, but unfortunately, Mo doesn’t,’ said Trump in a statement.
Trump listens to Budd announce he’s running for the Senate at the NCGOP state convention on June 5, 2021 in Greenville, North Carolina. The event was one of former U.S. President Donald Trumps first high-profile public appearances since leaving the White House in January
Rep. Mo Brooks spoke at the January 6 ‘Save America’ rally on the ellipse, which happened in advance of the MAGA crowd storming the U.S. Capitol
In North Carolina, the primary has been marked by bitter feuding.
Trump will bring his star power to town on Saturday evening, for a program that will feature Madison Cawthorn, the controversial congressman who is under fire for wild claims that Washington political life is full of cocaine-fuelled orgies.
In the Senate race, Budd won the surprise endorsement of Trump last year. The contest is seen as crucial to Republican hopes of securing the Senate.
He has pitched himself as a Trump loyalist – and was among the Republicans who voted not to certify Biden’s election last year – but struggled to gain traction in the polls, leading to questions about whether the former president regretted his decision.
Trump himself brought up the race at a Republican National Committee donor dinner in New Orleans last month.
‘How are we doing? How’s Ted Budd doing? OK?’ Trump asked North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley from the stage, according to audio obtained by Politico, before adding that he had to get one of the other candidates out of the race.
Since then Budd launched his first television ad which promotes his Trump endorsement and shows him walking the U.S.-Mexico border with a pistol on his belt.
A source familiar with Trump’s thinking said Budd had long been an ally of the former president – unlike Brooks who had once been known as a ‘never Trumper.’
‘It’s not a valid comparison,’ he said, adding that the video had been circulating in Republican circles for some time but not prompted a change of heart by Trump.
And after his shaky start a poll this week showed him stretching out to a double-digit lead over his closest rival former Gov. McCrory.
The result was warm words from Trump this week in a video trailer for his weekend trip.
Ted Budd began running his first primary election commercial statewide Wednesday, March 23, 2022, highlighting the congressman’s endorsement from former President Donald Trump and portraying himself as tough on illegal immigration
‘We’re supporting, as you know, Ted Budd. He’s running for the Senate.
‘He’s going to be a tremendous senator.
‘He’s taking the lead now very substantially in the polls and we’re gonna get him an even bigger lead.
But Ted Budd is a great conservative. He’s a great gentleman, a wonderful man and we look forward to seeing you Selma, Saturday night.
‘Don’t miss it.’
His poll numbers might just save him.
Some 36% of Republicans said they would vote for Budd in the May 17 primary election, according to poll published this week by Emerson College and The Hill.
The gives him a commanding lead over McCrory on 22 percent and former U.S. Rep Mark Walker on nine percent.
They are running for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Richard Burr.
With such positive numbers, talk show host John Fredericks said there was no way Trump would go back on his endorsement.
‘Done deal,’ he said. ‘Budd is surging.’