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Trump endorses North Carolina’s Rep. Ted Budd for Senate after Lara Trump declines to run

On June 5, former president Donald Trump endorsed Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) in his 2022 Senate primary bid. (Video: Reuters)
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GREENVILLE, N.C. — Former president Donald Trump jumped into a competitive Senate primary on Saturday night in North Carolina, endorsing Rep. Ted Budd for a hotly contested seat in the 2022 election.

Trump’s surprise endorsement — which he said he told the congressman about 15 minutes before taking the stage at a convention center here — came minutes after his daughter-in-law Lara Trump said she was not going to be running for the seat in North Carolina. Rumors had circulated for a month about a potential Senate bid by Lara Trump, which she had fueled. She said Saturday night that she was “no for now” after being called to the stage by her father-in-law, explaining that her decision was made largely because she has two young children.

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Budd is running against at least two other prominent Republicans: U.S. Rep. Mark Walker and former North Carolina governor Pat McCrory, and the former president’s nod is likely to give Budd a boost.

“A lot of you don’t know him well,” Trump said, introducing Budd to the stage. “He will fight like hell. He will fight like nobody fights.”

Minutes after the speech, McCrory held an impromptu news conference in the back of the ballroom, blaming “Washington insider” advisers around Trump for not receiving the endorsement himself.

McCrory would not say who he believed those insiders were but said “that may be a good pick” when asked whether former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows could have been the adviser. McCrory said he knew that Trump was being “worked” for his endorsement but that he had not spoken to him about it.

McCrory repeatedly told reporters that he believed the audience was “flat” after Trump gave Budd his endorsement, arguing that North Carolina voters would make their choice no matter whom Trump supported. Much of the audience cheered for Budd.

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Walker, also an ally of Trump, said on Twitter that he had won the straw poll from the room.

Trump was in North Carolina for the state GOP’s annual convention. He devoted most of his remarks to re-litigating his loss to President Biden and repeating his false claims that the election was stolen through voter fraud.

He also continued his attacks on Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, over his performance during the pandemic. Trump and his allies have focused on Fauci in recent weeks as they seek to rewrite or distort the history of the pandemic.

“He’s not a great doctor, but a hell of a promoter,” Trump told the crowd. “He likes television more than any politician in this room. He’s been wrong on almost every issue.”

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The attacks on Fauci ignore that Trump oversaw the country’s response to the pandemic and often times undermined the advice of public health officials on how to best mitigate the spread of the virus and save lives. Close to 600,000 Americans have died due to the virus.