North Carolina primary field builds, with or without Lara Trump

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It’s likely to be a brutal fight for the nomination. Walker entered the race in December and has been highlighting endorsements locally and nationally, including several of his former House colleagues and Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). He’s also had the quarter to fundraise, but his haul is unlikely to scare anyone off: $208,000, with just over $912,000 in the bank.

Walker took a swing at McCrory this week, while touting his own record having voted 97 percent of the time with Trump while in office.

“With taking back the Senate majority hinging on our success in North Carolina, why would we gamble on Pat McCrory — a career politician who has lost more statewide races than he’s won?” Walker said in the statement. “McCrory has routinely attacked conservatives including President Trump, and if Pat wasn’t good enough for Trump’s administration, he’s not good enough for our state.”

While it’s just Walker and McCrory for now, that could quickly change. A decision from Budd, in his third term in Congress, could be imminent.

Earlier this week, Budd’s finance director sent an email invitation to a May 6 fundraising event, noting that while the event was currently for his House reelection, “by next week the event may be for Ted Budd for US Senate” and that he was “strongly leaning” towards running for Senate, according to a copy of the email obtained by POLITICO.

Michael Luethy, a political adviser to Budd, said in a statement the congressman had received “encouragement from a broad cross-section of North Carolinians” and would decide in the “coming weeks” whether to run.

If he does, he’ll likely have a powerful ally in the in the conservative Club for Growth, a group that often plays heavily in GOP primaries. David McIntosh, the Club president, told POLITICO they have encouraged Budd to run and said they would likely make a seven-figure investment boosting him.

“We think he would be the best senator — and, really, in many ways, I think, the best candidate to unify all of the different elements in this state and the Republican Party,” McIntosh said.

“Lara Trump, if she decides to [run], would, I think, rocket to the top of the list,” he added.