Campaign

GOP primary challenger slams Republican rep for fundraising with Karl Rove

Noted GOP strategist Karl Rove is set to hold a pair of fundraisers for Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) later this month, a move that could earn Pittenger both a boosted campaign treasury and criticism from his primary rival.

 

Rove plans to attend two fundraisers for Pittenger on Oct. 16 - a lunch at The Palm steakhouse in Charlotte and a reception at a private home later that evening - according to a copy of the fundraising invitation obtained by The Hill. 

 

The former deputy chief of staff under President George W. Bush is one of the GOP's most famous strategists and helped start a handful of powerful Republican outside groups. But he's not been a frequent critic of President Trump, arguing in June that he "lacks the focus or self-discipline to do the basic work required of a president." 

 

Pittenger has supported some of Trump's most controversial moves in office, commending him for decisions to nix the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. He's also voted with the president's position almost 98 percent of the time, according to data tracked by FiveThirtyEight. 

 

But his primary opponent, Pastor Mark Harris, is criticizing Pittenger for appearing with a Trump critic who has a strained relationship with the GOP grass roots.

 

Harris and Pittenger ran one of the closest primary races in the entire 2016 cycle. The incumbent edged out Harris by under 200 votes, and now Harris is running again. Pittenger outperformed Trump in the district during the November general election - he won by 16 points compared with Trump's about 11 point margin.

 

But Trump remains popular among Republican primary voters, so Harris will likely seize on the fundraiser to try to peel off some of Pittenger's supporters. 

 

Andy Yates, a Harris campaign strategist who is a partner with the North Carolina-based Red Dome Group, told The Hill in a statement that the Pittenger fundraiser draws "battle lines." 

 

"It is very interesting that Pittenger would bring in Rove who is very vocally anti-Trump (Rove along with John Kasich are probably the face of the anti-Trumpers left in the Republican party) when Pittenger has gone to such great lengths to try to portray himself as a Trump fan and a Trump advocate," Yates said in an email. 

 

"I'm not sure how Robert can bring Rove in to raise money but still try to portray himself as pro-Trump," he said.

 

Pittenger's campaign did not respond to a request for comment. 

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