Burr on 'unusual' Trump endorsement in NC Senate race: 'I can't tell you what motivates him'

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrBipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Bipartisan group to issue 'promising' statement on infrastructure path forward First responders shouldn't have to tackle tigers MORE (R-N.C.) is expressing bewilderment over former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix MORE’s endorsement of Rep. Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddSchumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Pro-impeachment Republicans outpace GOP rivals in second-quarter fundraising Trump, GOP return to border to rev up base MORE in the GOP primary for the retiring senator’s seat, calling Trump’s decision to weigh in early on the race “unusual.”

“I can’t tell you what motivates him," Burr told Politico. "I’ve never seen individuals endorse a candidate a year before the primary. That’s unusual.”

Trump’s endorsement of Budd at the North Carolina state GOP convention earlier this month came as a surprise to many Republicans, who saw former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerFirst hearing set for lawsuit over Florida's new anti-riot bill NRA appealing Florida ban on gun sales to people under 21 Trump's biggest political obstacle is Trump MORE as the favorites to win the nomination to replace Burr next year.

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Burr, who announced his retirement plans in 2016, has privately sought to boost McCrory. 

The outgoing senator told Politico that the former governor is “the only one in the race that can win the general election" in 2022, adding that McCrory has a "commanding advantage."

The Senate race in North Carolina is expected to be among the most competitive of the 2022 midterm cycle, given the state’s status as a perennial battleground and Burr’s coming retirement. 

But both parties are gearing up for competitive and crowded primaries.

The Democratic field has already attracted nearly half a dozen candidates, including state Sen. Jeff Jackson, former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and former state Sen. Erica Smith, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Senate nomination in 2020.