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Lara Trump leads GOP field in North Carolina Senate race, poll shows

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' More than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill McConnell says he's 'great admirer' of Liz Cheney but mum on her removal MORE’s daughter-in-law Lara TrumpLara TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden to country: 'Turning peril into possibility' Budd to run for Senate in NC Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign MORE hasn’t said whether she’ll run for retiring Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGOP senator urges Biden to withdraw support for COVID vaccine patent waiver Utah county GOP censures Romney over Trump impeachment vote Battle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers MORE’s (R-N.C.) seat next year, but she already has an imposing presence in the race. 

A poll obtained by The Hill on Tuesday shows Lara Trump with a double-digit lead over a crowded field of current and potential GOP Senate candidates in North Carolina. The survey, conducted by the GOP polling firm Cygnal, found her garnering 32.4 percent in an eight-way primary contest. She’s followed in second place by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson at 20.1 percent. 

Only two other potential candidates, former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, notched double-digit support in the poll, scoring 14.2 percent and 12.7 percent respectively. Former Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden to country: 'Turning peril into possibility' Budd to run for Senate in NC Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign MORE (R-N.C.), the only candidate to have already announced a bid for Burr’s seat, finished fifth in the poll at 3 percent. 

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Of all the candidates included in the poll, Lara Trump scored the highest net favorability rating, as well, coming in at 66.6 percent. 

Forest placed second on that front at 64 percent net favorability. Robinson was the only other potential candidate to score above 50 percent net favorability. 

The survey, which was shared with The Hill by a GOP source, suggests that should Lara Trump jump into the GOP Senate nominating contest, she would do so as the front-runner, potentially complicating things for other Republicans eyeing Burr’s seat in 2022.

It also shows former President Trump’s sustained strength among GOP voters in North Carolina. 

Eighty-six percent of respondents said they hold a favorable view of the former president, including 68.8 percent who reported a “very favorable” opinion of him. And an overwhelming majority of GOP voters — 83 percent — want Republican candidates to remain loyal to him. 

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When asked whether they consider themselves to be more a supporter of former President Trump or the Republican Party, a majority — 54.7 percent — chose the former, according to the Cygnal poll. 

The former president’s continued influence — and the influence of his family name — will likely prove difficult for GOP Senate candidates to get out from under. 

Roughly one third of respondents — 34 percent — said they believe Lara Trump is the Republican most capable of winning the 2022 general election against the eventual Democratic Senate nominee, compared with about 20 percent who chose Robinson and 15 percent who picked McCrory. 

If she decides on a run, Lara Trump would enter the race with outsized name ID from her time as a top surrogate and adviser to her father-in-law. She also signed on as a Fox News contributor last month, giving her a prime platform to grow her public profile.

While she’s a North Carolina native, she hasn’t lived in the state in years. And she’s offered little indication of when, or even if, she will make a decision on a Senate bid. That silence has irked some North Carolina Republicans, who had hoped to wait and see what she does before launching campaigns of their own. 

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It’s still early in the race, but there are signs that the GOP primary contest will soon heat up. McCrory, who lost reelection as governor in 2016 to Democrat Roy Cooper by about 10,000 votes, is expected to launch a Senate bid this week. Robinson is also testing his strength in a potential Senate race, according to a person familiar with the efforts. 

The Senate race in North Carolina is poised to be among the most competitive and expensive of the 2022 midterm elections. The state is a perennial battleground, and Burr’s retirement has only made the race even more competitive.

Among the Democrats seeking to replace Burr are former state Sen. Erica Smith, who unsuccessfully sought the party’s Senate nomination last year, and state Sen. Jeff Jackson. But others are eyeing campaigns, as well, including Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.