GOP candidate says his NC win not a referendum on Trump

Republican House candidate Madison Cawthorn said his primary win in North Carolina is not a referendum on President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE, who officially backed a different candidate in the race.

Cawthorn, a 24-year old businessman, attributed his defeat of Lynda Bennett, a real estate agent and GOP activist, to a “superior ground game, a more compelling message, and really, just being able to keep all politics local,” he told Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” 

Bennett had been endorsed by the president and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump wears mask during visit to Walter Reed Barr recommended Trump not give Stone clemency: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Miami pauses reopenings as COVID-19 infections rise, schools nationally plot return MORE, who previously held the congressional seat up for election. Cawthorn said he saw Trump’s support of his opponent as a “significant push for her to get closer to victory.”

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“I, by no means, think that this was a referendum on Trump, the fact that I won,” he said. “I absolutely support our president and I know the overwhelming majority of my voters do.” 

The Republican candidate said he doesn’t hold “any ill will towards any of them” for striving to get Trump’s endorsement. He said he spoke to the president after his win over the phone and they “are looking forward to having a very productive working relationship.”

“He defined our victory as beautiful,” Cawthorn said. “And I'll tell you, he was just a — he was as gracious as he could have been. He's invited me up to the White House,  so I'm really looking forward to get to go see him in the Oval.” 

Cawthorn’s win is a rare instance of a primary candidate backed by Trump losing. While Bennett had gained the endorsements of main names in the district, Cawthorn won the support of a series of local officials.  

The candidate is the heavy favorite to win the general election, as Meadows had won his seat by more than 20 points in 2018.

One of Vice President Pence’s closest confidants, Bill Smith, wrote in a Facebook post that his political consulting firm Sheridan Strategy Group contributed to Cawthorn’s win against the Trump-backed candidate.