Putin front-and-center in new attack ad in North Carolina’s divisive GOP Senate primary

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Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is targeting GOP Senate primary rival Rep. Ted Budd in a new campaign commercial that spotlights portions of comments the congressman made about Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

In the ad, McCrory’s first in his bid for the Republican nomination in the race for the Senate seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr in the key swing state of North Carolina, the former governor charges that “while Ukrainians bled and died… Congressman Budd excused their killer.” 

The 30-second spot then uses clips of Budd from a Feb. 26 Fox News interview saying “There are strategic reasons why he [Putin] would want to protect his southern and western flank. We understand that.”

Putin launched Russia’s deadly invasion of neighboring Ukraine two days earlier, on Feb. 24. 

McCrory’s commercial, which was first reported by Politico, also includes a quick soundbite of Budd from a Feb. 28 interview with a CBS News affiliate in North Carolina saying that Putin’s “a very intelligent actor.”

“Budd’s votes have been friendly towards Russia,” McCrory charges in his ad. “He voted against sanctions on Russia. These are serious times and we need serious senators. I don’t compliment our enemies. I stand for truth and freedom.”

But in the Fox News interview, Budd also called Putin’s assault on Ukraine “evil.” And he went on to emphasize that “this is a sovereign nation in the Ukraine and we stand with the Ukraine people.”

And in the interview with the CBS affiliate, Budd again called Putin “evil” and an “international thug.”

Budd’s campaign took aim at McCrory.

“Governor McCrory has a long track-record of underestimating the opposition, which is why he’s already lost twice and is about to lose again,” Budd adviser Jonathan Felts told Fox News in a statement, as he pointed to McCrory’s 2008 gubernatorial defeat and his unsuccessful 2016 reelection bid.

Former President Donald Trump, right, announces his endorsement of N.C. Rep. Ted Budd, left, for the 2022 North Carolina U.S. Senate seat as he speaks at the North Carolina Republican Convention Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
(AP )

Budd landed the endorsement last year of former President Donald Trump, who remains very popular and influential with GOP voters in North Carolina and around the country. Trump attempted to convince another conservative rival, former Rep. Mark Walker, to drop out of the Senate primary and run for a House seat, which would have benefited Budd. 

But Walker defied Trump and stayed in the race. Walker, who steered the conservative Republican Study Committee for part of his tenure on Capitol Hill, told Fox News Digital last month that “I am the number-one America First-rated candidate” in the race.

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