In the 2022 midterms, many of the aggressive primary challenges that GOP incumbents are facing — from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — are coming from Donald Trump devotees who believe they aren’t MAGA enough. But in North Carolina, Rep. Madison Cawthorn is being primaried by fellow Republicans for a different reason: They believe the ultra-MAGA, controversy-ridden congressman has been an embarrassment. And according to the Daily Beast’s Sam Brodey, opposition research against Cawthorn from his primary rivals has gone into overdrive.
“Multiple embarrassing traffic stops, a credible accusation of insider trading, photos of him sporting hoop earrings and a bra, a video of a male staffer’s hand near his crotch, another video showing him jokingly but nakedly humping the upper body of potentially the same man — his cousin — and possibly, more to come,” Brodey writes in an article published on May 10. “Few in politics have seen anything like the ever-worsening public relations train wreck that has consumed the political career of Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC). The unrelenting pile-up of damaging stories, insiders say, is the clear handiwork of political players determined to take out the 26-year-old MAGA hero in the May 17 primary election.”
Brodey adds, “With a field of hungry Republican primary opponents eyeing the divisive freshman’s seat, the sources of the coordinated stories seem clear: the attacks are coming from inside the house.”
One of the North Carolina Republicans interviewed for Brodey’s article confirmed that Cawthorn is a major target of opposition research. That source, interviewed on condition of anonymity and described by Brodey as a “veteran North Carolina operative,” told the Beast, “It’s definitely a hit job that I’m happy to be a party to. Most of the GOP universe has come around to align against this guy. You’re seeing a full-court, state-based, establishment pushback against him. Get this guy out. Take him out.”
Cawthorn, Brodey notes, has “spent the last year making enemies.” Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, a conservative Republican, is one of them. Tillis, Brodey observes, has “has backed State Sen. Chuck Edwards, one of Cawthorn’s leading primary challengers, and has spent heavily on ads damaging the congressman.”
Cawthorn has been alienating both Democrats and fellow Republicans. The political action committee Fire Madison PAC is run by some North Carolina Democrats; one of its organizers, David Wheeler, told the Beast, “We’ve become kind of the dumping ground for info on the guy. Obviously, we have a target, we’re not afraid to take him on and put out the information his opponents wouldn’t — or the Democrats wouldn’t.”
A political strategist the Beast interviewed anonymously emphasizes that even some hardcore MAGA Republicans have grown fed up with Cawthorn’s antics.
According to that source, “MAGA World is keeping their distance. They aren’t sure how this is going to play out, and right now, they don’t want to put their credibility on the line considering all the baggage Madison has right now.”
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