(June 24) A 24-year-old in a wheelchair gave walking papers to a rival endorsed by President Trump on a Tuesday in a Republican primary runoff in North Carolina. He also showed that nasty negative advertising can be defeated by a largely positive message.

Madison Cawthorn, who won’t turn 25 until Aug. 1, is a motivational speaker and real estate investor whose career at the U.S. Naval Academy was cut short when he was partially paralyzed in an automobile accident (in which he was a passenger). In a race for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Tarheel State’s 11th Congressional District, Cawthorn first survived a multi-candidate primary featuring several political veterans, and then in the runoff defeated Lynda Bennett, whom Trump had endorsed.

This wasn’t just some pro forma endorsement, either. Bennett was the friend and handpicked successor of the strident Mark Meadows, who held that House seat until taking over as Trump’s chief of staff on March 31. Cawthorn’s victory is a major black eye for the White House, and for Trump’s debatable reputation as an unbeatable colossus in intra-party Republican contests.

Cawthorn is perhaps a bit callow, but with a remarkably winsome and upbeat personality. He ran a campaign a bit heavy on slogans, but with a positive, “can-do” vibe. His sunny tones are distinctly un-Trumpian.

Bennett, contrarily, bombarded the airwaves with negative ads with background video portraying Cawthorn as a reckless partier. Outside groups laid it on even thicker, devoting their entire ads to saying Cawthorn was a “party animal.” Bennett refused to respond to requests for comments about those ads, while Cawthorn publicly disowned outside ads he thought were unfair to Bennett.

When the president can’t even help win the election for the chosen candidate of his own chief of staff in a heavily conservative Republican electorate, that’s a sign of political impotence….

[The full column is here.]


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