GOP Senate candidate accuses Trump-backed GOP challenger of supporting Putin
Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) is accusing Trump-backed Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) of supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin in a campaign ad as the two politicians battle for the GOP nomination in the Tar Heel State’s Senate race.
In the new 30-second spot, the McCrory campaign spliced together soundbites of Budd being complimentary toward Putin in a recent interview.
“He’s a very intelligent actor,” Budd said in the soundbite. “There are strategic reasons why he would want to protect his southern and western flank. We understand that.”
In that February interview, however, Budd also called Putin “evil” and an “international thug.”
“But, he is intelligent. And so, we have to treat him as such,” Budd added in the interview.
McCrory, in the ad, said that “while Ukrainians bled and died” Budd “excused their killer.” He also knocked the congressman for his previous votes, as noted by The News & Observer, dubbing them as “friendly toward Russia,” noting that he voted against sanctions on Moscow.
“These are serious times and we need serious senators,” McCrory said. “I don’t compliment our enemies. I stand for truth and freedom.”
The ad is McCrory’s first television spot in his campaign for Senate, according to The Washington Post. It is also one of the first campaign advertisements to focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has been unfolding for roughly two weeks. The conflict began late last month when Putin ordered a military operation in Ukraine.
Former President Trump threw his support behind Budd in June, though the endorsement has largely failed to clear the competitive primary field. Former Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) is also vying for his party’s nomination despite pressure from Trump to drop out and instead run for the House.
The primary is scheduled for May 17.
Budd campaign senior adviser Jonathan Felts told The Hill in a statement that McCrory “has a long track-record of underestimating the opposition which is why he’s already lost twice and is about to lose again.”
McCrory lost his bid for governor in 2008, won in 2012 then failed to secure reelection in 2016.
“Ted Budd presented the sort of level-headed assessment of a foreign crisis you would expect from a US Senator because he knows these are serious times that require strength and substance, not the empty soundbites preferred by career politicians like Biden and McCrory,” Felts added.
McCrory strategist Jordan Shaw said Budd has “repeatedly praised Putin and excused his invasion, all while Ukrainian women and children are being killed,” according to the Post.
“Budd’s comments are not only indefensible and irresponsible, they’re also proof that he’s not ready to be a U.S. senator,” Shaw said. “We are confident Republican primary voters will agree as they see this ad.”
Updated 3:35 p.m.