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Campaign Report — The Senate race flying under national Democrats’ radar

Associated Press/Hannah Schoenbaum/Chris Seward

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, tracking all things related to the 2022 midterm elections. Starting this week, you can expect this newsletter in your inbox every TuesdayWednesday and Thursday leading up to November’s election.   

Email us tips and feedback: Max Greenwood (mgreenwood@thehill.com), Julia Manchester (jmanchester@thehill.com), and Caroline Vakil (cvakil@thehill.com).  Subscribe here. 

North Carolina Dems say they can flip Senate seat

The Senate race in North Carolina may well be one of the most competitive of the 2022 midterms. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) isn’t running for reelection and the state routinely hosts some of the closest statewide races in the country. 

But Democrats biggest challenge? Convincing national groups to give it the same kind of attention as other hotly contested Senate races have received. 

North Carolina Democrats are pleading with outside groups to spend more heavily in the race, fearing that they’re squandering one of their best chances at flipping a Republican-held seat this year. 

Democrat Cheri Beasley, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, is deadlocked in polling against Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), the Republican nominee. And she’s outraising him significantly.  

Still, Republican groups have poured in millions of dollars more than Democratic ones. While Senate Majority PAC, the super PAC aligned with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), has made a seven-figure investment in the state, the group has spent far less than its Republican counterpart, the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), which has already reserved more than $27 million worth of ads this fall.  

At the same time, Democrats are bracing for a new wave of Republican spending from MAGA Inc., a new super PAC formed by allies of former President Trump. Budd, you’ll recall, was endorsed by Trump early on in his primary campaign.  

One thing that may be holding Democratic outside groups back? Time and again, the party has come close to notching big wins in the state but fallen short. In 2020, for instance, Trump carried the state for a second time in a row, while Democratic Senate nominee Cal Cunningham narrowly lost to Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) after facing a high-profile sex scandal. 

But Democrats also say Beasley’s campaign is different. She’s played up her credentials as an impartial former judge unafraid to break with her party when necessary, and if elected in November, she would become the state’s first Black senator.  

Budd, meanwhile, hasn’t been subjected to the same kind of scrutiny as other Republican Senate candidates. While he’s staked out hard-right positions on everything from abortion access to election integrity, he hasn’t suffered from any major gaffes and is seen as being more disciplined on the stump.  

Democrats, however, say that it would be unwise to give Budd a pass. He voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election and has declined to say whether he would accept the results of this year’s election.  He also signed on as a co-sponsor to a House bill introduced earlier this month that seeks to ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

“Ted Budd is just plain vanilla,” Bruce Thompson, a longtime North Carolina Democratic consultant, said. “He seems like a nice guy when you talk to him so therefore he hasn’t gotten in trouble with sound bites. But there’s a voting record, and I think Democrats need to do a better job at getting that out there.” 

Read more here. 

DeSantis faces make-or-break moment  

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is facing a make-or-break moment as Hurricane Ian bears down on the state’s west coast. The first-term governor, who is facing reelection in November, is naturally becoming the face of the state’s response efforts, urging residents in the direct path of the storm to seek safety.  

“The assets that we have are unprecedented in the state’s history,” the governor said during a press conference on Wednesday.  “And, unfortunately, they’re gonna need to be deployed because this is a really, really significant storm.” 

According to DeSantis, 30,000 linemen are prepped and ready to restore power, while 5,000 Florida national guardsmen have been activated. Additionally, 2,000 national guardsmen from neighboring states have been activated.  

The moment presents a test for DeSantis as the nation will get a glimpse of how the potential 2024 presidential contender works under the pressure of a crisis.  

While the Florida governor is known for hitting below the belt against his political adversaries, including President Biden, The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes that Biden and DeSantis appear to have largely put aside their political feud for the safety and well-being of those in Ian’s path.  

On Tuesday, the White House said that DeSantis had talked with President Biden about the federal government’s response to the storm. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said “that both men were “committed to continue close coordination.” 

DeSantis also had good things to say about Biden during an interview on Tuesday with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity on Fox News.  

“Well, Sean, you know, what I said today is that my phone line is open. When people’s lives and their property are at risk like this, we all need to work together regardless of party lines,” DeSantis said, adding that he believes the administration wants to help.  

“It’s my sense that the administration wants to help,” he continued. “I think they realize that this is a really significant storm and there’s a lot of people that, you know, we’re working with the locals. We work very well with them. And of course at the state level. But we really need everyone working together to make people have their needs tended to.” 

Related:

POLL WATCH

A Marist Institute for Public Opinion survey released on Wednesday shows Democratic Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly leading his Republican challenger Blake Masters by 10 points. Fifty-one percent of registered voters said they were backing Kelly while 41 percent said the same about Masters.  Among voters who say they definitely will vote in November, 50 percent say they will vote for Kelly and 45 percent for Masters. 

The same poll found that in the state’s gubernatorial election, Republican Kari Lake leads Democrat Katie Hobbs by just one point among registered voters, 46 percent to 45 percent support.  

In Ohio, a new Spectrum News-Siena College poll shows Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) leading his Republican opponent J.D. Vance 46 percent to 43 percent.  

Meanwhile, on the generic congressional ballot, the Democrats’ lead has shrunk to two points, according to a new Politico-Morning Consult poll. The poll found that Democrats led Republicans in the ballot 45 percent to 43 percent.  

SCOOP: And speaking of Ohio, The Hill reported on Wednesday that Donald Trump Jr. will hit the campaign trail in Ohio with Vance next week in Perrysburg, East Caledonia, and Columbus. This marks the first time Trump Jr. Has campaigned with Vance since the Republican primary earlier this year.  

OP-EDS FROM ON AND OFF THE TRAIL

Latino voters are shifting right: Here’s how Democrats can bring them back, By political adviser Douglas E. Schoen

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Campaign page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow. 

Tags Cal Cunningham Cheri Beasley Richard Burr Ron DeSantis Ted Budd Trump

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