Oct 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Flipping for Trump

Former President Donald Trump is seen during a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday.

Former President Trump during his rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Some high-dollar donors to former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory put their money behind Rep. Ted Budd, his U.S. Senate primary opponent, after Donald Trump endorsed Budd this year, records show.

Why it matters: The former president's endorsement can be literal currency in Republican primary fights. The shifting allegiances between McCrory and Budd illustrate how Trump can single-handedly alter not just support but the money race in high-profile political fights.

What's happening: David Congdon, the executive chairman of trucking giant Old Dominion Freight Line, gave the legal maximum to McCrory's primary campaign in April, according to Federal Election Commission records.

The big picture: In general, a Trump endorsement has the ability to affect voters' and donors' thinking in several ways.

  • He remains immensely popular among Republicans, who may be inclined to vote for his preferred candidates out of loyalty or a belief he has the party's best interests at heart.
  • For that reason, a Trump endorsement also makes a GOP primary candidate more viable — and donors in particular tend to gravitate toward candidates with better odds of winning.
  • The ex-president's notorious aversion to perceived disloyalty also may sway would-be candidates, donors and campaign workers concerned about drawing his or his political team's ire.

Between the lines: Trump's political sway is most apparent within the grassroots, and the North Carolina Senate primary has seen some smaller voters switch allegiances after Trump's endorsement.

  • One retiree from Cashiers, North Carolina, chipped in $250 to McCrory in April. Four days after Trump backed Budd, she gave him twice as much.
  • Another retiree from Sanibel, Florida, gave $300 to McCrory in May. A month later, after Trump's endorsement, he gave the same sum to Budd.
  • Both people donated to Trump's 2016 and 2020 campaigns.

Looking ahead: Most of Trump's GOP primary endorsements this year have come during the past few months, and any additional effect on donor loyalties will be more apparent in campaigns' third-quarter fundraising numbers.

  • Those reports are due to the FEC by Oct. 15.
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