With Barnes 'in trouble', Democratic operatives ponder moving resources from Wisconsin to North Carolina
Cheri Beasley is a mediocre candidate but the math might be better for Democrats as Mandela Barnes shows decline.
A handful of unconnected Democratic operatives are quietly mulling the prospect of cutting investment in Mandela Barnes’ Senate candidacy in Wisconsin and urging the transfer of resources to North Carolina, where the contest remains unexpectedly tight into the final month of the campaign.
Democrats nationally and inside Wisconsin have become dour about Barnes’ chances of defeating GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, who rapidly recovered from a polling deficit this summer by effectively branding the Black lieutenant governor as a liberal outside the mainstream of the state who is soft on crime.
Cheri Beasley, a mediocre Democratic candidate running for an open North Carolina seat, is benefitting from running against GOP Rep. Ted Budd, a Donald Trump-backed contender who has struggled to pull away from her since his convincing primary victory last spring.
No independent Democratic entities have settled on a decision yet, but operatives involved in Senate contests intimated that conversations were in motion to contemplate a possible shift in financial focus.
“They should start spending in NC because they need to increase their pathways at this point,” texted one Democratic operative. “It’s a coin flip to me due to the structural issues with voting in NC. But I am on the ground in WI and can affirm they are feeling similarly here about Barnes. NV and WI are in trouble.”
A second Democratic strategist would say only that an investment change to the eastern coastal state was “possible” and “made sense” to evaluate.
Senate Majority PAC, the leading Democratic super PAC funding Senate races, continues to have advertising scheduled in Wisconsin through the final four weeks. SMP along with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have a combined $9 million of television reservations scheduled for October, with an additional $1.8 million readied for the final week of November, according to the Kantar advertising tracking firm.
SMP has also spent in North Carolina attacking Budd, but these set of operatives argue more money is needed for Beasley to have an outside shot at an upset and that Barnes’ candidacy should be sacrificed.
Of course, every campaign is constantly soliciting for more money; this conversation is primarily centered around whether Democratic dollars are better disproportionately spent in Wisconsin or North Carolina.
Both Barnes and Beasley are Black candidates, but while 21% of North Carolina residents are Black, Wisconsin’s African American population is just 7%.
Johnson currently tracks ahead of of Barnes by 2 points, according to the 538 polling average, whereas Budd’s advantage over Beasley is just seven-tenths of 1 point.
But that marginal difference between the two races is shaded by the larger perception that Wisconsin is a naturally bluer state because of Joe Biden’s narrow 2020 victory there and the presence of a Democratic U.S. Senator in the delegation in Tammy Baldwin.
Biden lost North Carolina in 2020 by about 74,000 votes. It’s been 14 years since a Democrat won a U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, a statistic that cools some Democratic expectations about the Tar Heel State.
Right now, the betting odds that Republicans will retain both Wisconsin and North Carolina’s Senate seats are identical, with Democrats holding a 1-in-4 shot in each.
I made this point privately, but I really don’t consider Beasley to be a mediocre candidate. Good background, prodigious fundraiser. She cleared the primary field too and she’s a way better candidate than Cunningham was in 2020.