by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Most Americans have never heard of Cheri Beasley or her GOP opponent, Rep. Ted Budd, a gun-store owner from Davie County outside Winston-Salem first elected in 2016. The two candidates are running to succeed Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.), who is retiring after three terms in office. It’s a race that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate for the second half of President Joe Biden’s first (and probably last) term in office, but the national media aren’t paying attention.
That is almost certainly by design. Both parties nominated generic candidates unlikely to make headlines. No celebrity doctors. No hulking stroke victims in cargo shorts who speak with the coherence of a teenage beauty queen explaining (and embodying) the failures of our education system. No eccentric football legends betraying the black community by running against a Democrat. No 2024 contenders who might disrupt former president Donald Trump’s path to the GOP nomination.
Beasley is not a self-appointed media darling like Stacey Abrams. Budd was attacked by the Lincoln Project for neglecting “the people of Wisconsin.” He does not provoke national journalists and other Democratic activists into fits of convulsive rage the way J.D. Vance and Ron DeSantis do. Yet Ohio and Florida aren’t really swing states compared with North Carolina. In 2020, the same year Trump won the state by 1.3 percentage points, Gov. Roy Cooper (D., N.C.) was comfortably reelected. Sen. Thom Tillis (R., N.C.) would have probably lost his seat that same year if Democrat Cal Cunningham hadn’t been caught cheating on his wife just weeks before Election Day.
In other words, the outcome of this race will be a reasonably accurate reflection of the national mood, which is why Budd is probably going to win. He has led almost every poll by at least 3 percentage points since early September.