Budd leads McCrory in US Senate race, WRAL News poll shows

U.S. Rep. Ted Budd has a 10-point lead over former Gov. Pat McCrory in a WRAL News poll of Republican primary voters ahead of the May 17 election. But many voters are still undecided.

Posted Updated

Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter

U.S. Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina has overtaken former Gov. Pat McCrory ahead of the May 17 Republican U.S. Senate primary election, according to a WRAL News poll released Monday.

The results show Budd with 33% support, McCrory with 23% and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker with 7%. Army combat veteran Marjorie K. Eastman placed a distant fourth at 2%. Ten other primary candidates followed behind at 1% or less.

A 10-point lead is considered strong, but it could narrow or expand as the primary nears; one-third of respondents said they were undecided.

U.S. Rep. Ted Budd has a 10-point lead over former Gov. Pat McCrory in a WRAL News poll of Republican primary voters ahead of the May 17 election. But many voters are still undecided.

The online survey of 593 likely GOP primary voters was conducted by SurveyUSA from April 6 to 10 and had a margin of error of 5 percentage points. Candidates need more than 30% of the vote to win the nomination outright.

Budd has gained ground in recent months as Club for Growth Action, an influential political action committee in Washington, D.C., has increased its spending over the airwaves to criticize McCrory and highlight the endorsement Budd received last year from former President Donald Trump.
At a rally in Selma on Saturday, the state’s top Republican executive officeholder, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, also threw his support behind Budd.

“Certainly the Budd campaign having a national figure like the former president and now the de-facto Republican leader in the state in the lieutenant governor gives him a one-two punch that sends signals to the primary electorate,” said Michael Bitzer, a Catawba College political scientist.

The endorsement by Robinson was a particular blow to Walker, an ideologically similar opponent to Budd who has often invoked his personal friendship with Robinson while on the campaign trail.

“I would be disingenuous if I didn’t acknowledge I am somewhat disappointed by Saturday’s events, but I am undeterred,” Walker said in a statement.

Budd thanked Robinson for his support during the rally, noting that the man widely expected to run for governor in 2024 would be a good fit for that office. Budd has sought to present himself as the likeliest candidate to defeat Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court on track to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

“I'm the conservative fighter that not only knows how to win primaries but knows how to win the general,” Budd said in an interview last month.

The poll shows Beasley with 37% support among 523 likely Democratic primary voters surveyed. The next highest-polling candidate received 4% support. Nearly half of respondents said they were undecided for the primary race. The margin of error for the Democratic primary was 5.3 percentage points.

In the GOP race, McCrory said in a Friday interview he believes outside spending from Club for Growth is the primary driver behind Budd’s growing momentum. The former governor no longer labels himself as the frontrunner and instead believes the races will be highly competitive.

“We don't think it's double digits,” McCrory said. “The independent vote is going to help determine this election. We think this election is going to be a dead heat.”

U.S. Senate debate between Mark Walker and Pat McCrory

McCrory said his pathway to the nomination runs through moderate Republicans and registered unaffiliated voters who may like Trump’s policies but dislike his behavior and the hardline conservatives Trump supports.

The WRAL News poll shows the former governor performs best with men, younger adults and residents in urban areas, including the surrounding Charlotte area, where McCrory served as the city’s mayor from 1995 to 2009.

"Pat McCrory isn't for sale and neither is this seat," said Jordan Shaw, a spokesman for McCrory, alluding to outside spending for Budd.

Budd dominates the pack across nearly all demographic groups. He does best with women, residents in rural communities, adults who are at least 65 years old and North Carolinians who identify further right ideologically. The Greensboro-area congressman has similar levels of support throughout the state but resonates most with Republicans in the Triad.

"I'm glad to be up instead of down right now, but we all know we have a lot of work left to do between now and primary day," said Jonathan Felts, a senior adviser to Budd. "We're moving fast and only accelerating with no plans on slowing down between now and November."

The campaigns of Beasley and Walker did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the results of the poll.