They voted for Madison Cawthorn. Now they think that He ‘Do not screw.’

FLETCHER, North Carolina — Those who gathered at an event hall in suburban Asheville on Monday night for a Republican primary debate had to be Representative Madison Cawthorn.

They ate up all the MAGA red meat that the 26-year-old congressman regularly cooked. They applauded conspiracies about a stolen election, laughed at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s age, and responded to the candidates’ speeches with shouts of “Let’s go Brandon!”

Not long ago, nearly everyone in the room could proudly say they were Madison Cawthorn’s. But during his 15 months in office, Cawthorn has been plagued by a series of scandals, strategy thefts, and cryptic claims that have not only tarnished the GOP’s pride in him — they’ve stripped him of his credibility. his support.

Frank, an elderly man at the debate, said: “Initially, I thought it was because the liberal media was attacking him. “Now, I think he’s not cut for it.”

Richard Bennett, who lives in nearby Brevard, admits he was “a bit disappointed” in Cawthorn.

“It looks like he,” Bennett said, “was dismantled.”

Cawthorn himself was not present to hear such criticism. With the May 17 primary election looming for North Carolina’s 11th District, he skipped Monday’s debate hosted by the Transylvania County GOP. The stage was an empty chair with Cawthorn’s name on the front.

Many Republicans who went to the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center to hear from candidates challenging Cawthorn, at least, decided they were finished with the incumbent.

But attendees were divided on the next key question: Who will replace him as the GOP candidate?

They don’t hurt choices. The seven candidates on stage seem to offer an archetype for every GOP voter: outspoken and witty businessman, young Navy veteran, seasoned state senator, grumpy sheriff and the military man, the spearhead party activist, the “conservative Christian-business man,” and of course, the woman who said she would be working with Representative Marjorie Taylor right away. Greene.

The split field does not mean that Cawthorn will enter the general election.

If no candidate finishes above 31 percent, the top two will advance to a drawdown election in June. Most insiders believe that the only way Cawthorn will be defeated is if a substantial anti-Cawthorn vote materializes in the May primary, divided by seven who challenge him, with the best record. put him in the flow.

At Monday night’s debate, however, there were more shots fired between the candidates on stage than there were attacks on Cawthorn.

At one point, Michele Woodhouse, the former chair of the GOP in the county, moved on to tell State Senator Chuck Edwards the up-and-coming favorite in founding the party. Woodhouse asked why Edwards hired the political team of Senator Richard Burr – the soon-to-be-retired non-Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump after January 6?

“The real reason,” Edwards said, “is because he doesn’t work for you.”

After the debate, Woodhouse told The Daily Beast that Edwards “didn’t want to talk about Richard Burr’s role in bringing down Donald Trump and bringing Joe Biden to power.”

Those who agreed could opt for the Woodhouse campaign bumper stickers, conveniently placed on the table on the way out of the debate, that read: “If you like Richard Burr, you’ll like Chuck Edwards.”

Lots of Republicans in Washington are cheering the field for taking Cawthorn. But the exchange between Woodhouse and Edwards – one of several between the candidates that evening – reflected a reality of the race: it was something of a prisoner’s dilemma.

Candidates must choose between using their precious time to attack Cawthorn and drag him below 31 percent — or attack one or more of their other opponents to get themselves a good shot. than in that potential second place.

Chris Cooper, a politics professor at Western Carolina University, says candidates have a difficult balancing act to achieve.

“The tie they have to go is to attack Cawthorn and not attack the people who voted for Cawthorn,” Cooper said. “That’s, of course, the majority of people in this area and the majority of people who voted in the Republican primaries.”

Cawthorn may be the elephant in the room, but that doesn’t mean the candidates leave him alone.

Bruce O’Connell, a local hotelier whose campaign sign was splattered across the Asheville area, ignited the congressman by refusing to show up.

“Does he not respect you all enough to be here? Answer the question?” O’Connell asked.

Edwards also defeated Cawthorn thanks to a high number of missed votes in Congress. “Every time it votes, the county doesn’t hear its voice,” he said.

And nearly every candidate goes after Cawthorn because of the quality of his constituent service program, which has been a local sore spot.

By explaining his absence from the debate, Cawthorn spokesman Luke Ball sent The Daily Beast a statement from March in which Cawthorn committed to two main debates, both both happened.

“Nobody is entitled to a congressional seat,” said Cawthorn in his limited appearance statement, and I welcome this opportunity for voters to hear my vision of how I intend to represent it. represented NC-11 for a second term in the United States House of Representatives. . ”

When asked to respond to his opponents’ arguments on Monday night, Ball said “of course [they] will smear and attack the clear leader dominating the race. “

But Cawthorn’s camp paid particular attention to the empty chair that was left for him on stage at the debate. The congressman lost the use of his legs in a car accident and was confined to a wheelchair.

“I’m not sure who put an empty chair on the stage as a political prop, but we take it as a personal insult to the MP for him to take his own chair away. anywhere,” Ball said. “Congressman Cawthorn has been in his district at dozens of events, debates and meetings this year. He will continue to serve despite the cunning efforts of political opponents to disparage his achievements.”

Remarkably, however, the candidates paid little attention to the controversies that have defined Cawthorn’s reputation nationally. His accusations that GOP legislators enjoy snorting cocaine at work and engaging in group sex may have angered his colleagues and prompted rare criticism from the Leader. minority Kevin McCarthy, but no candidate mentioned that.

Neither candidate mentioned Cawthorn’s remarks that the Ukrainian president was a “thug”, or that he was fined for speeding while driving with a revoked license, or tried to Try to bring a gun on a plane, or change counties before returning to campaign. in its original district.

Those hoping 11 Republican voters can replace Cawthorn with a more moderate candidate will likely be disappointed. If Cawthorn loses, Cooper said, he “will be replaced by someone who is at least as conservative and arguably more effective at operating the levers of power in Congress.”

Indeed, Cawthorn’s top challengers are more willing, polished and eager to talk about policy issues than Cawthorn is.

But in front of a hardened Republican Party crowd in Transylvania County on Monday night, all were working from the same Trumpy track as the young congressman of the fire brigade.

Matthew Burrill, the Asheville airport executive as a “conservative Christian businessman”, declared Joe Biden the “greatest national security threat” to the country and spoke with reverence about the “Trump family”.

Woodhouse, who bills himself as an America First candidate – even though Cawthorn is endorsed by Trump – supported the jailing of Anthony Fauci and said that Biden had brought someone to the US Supreme Court who was “sympathetic to Mr. pedophiles”.

Some candidates have criticized the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, brokered by Democrats and Republicans, as “socialist.”

There is only one candidate in the field, Navy veteran Wendy Nevarez, on the side of the party that blamed Trump on January 6 and frankly called the events of that day a revolt. She has been booed at events before; Her reception on Monday was just as warm as she hit Biden for him to withdraw from Afghanistan.

With just a few weeks to go until the official date, Cawthorn is still considered by insiders to be the most popular team. But there is an acknowledgment that anything can happen. Cooper says he could benefit from the prisoners’ dilemma facing his challengers — a silver lining for his tricked-out county-switching game, already attract a number of credible candidates to the race.

At this point, Republicans are bracing for extra gloves as candidates race to put Cawthorn under 30 percent — and put themselves in second place.

“I think it’s going to get worse,” said Marilyn Brown, a Woodhouse supporter. “The main wave is May 17. They have to start heating up.” They voted for Madison Cawthorn. Now they think that He ‘Do not screw.’

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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