#ncpol: Wheels falling off of Shumaker’s ‘Trump-hug’ strategy?

Uber-consultant Paul Shumaker is advising candidates in two of the state’s most-watched congressional primaries:  the GOP races in the 3rd and the 9th.

Indian casino lobbyist (and Shumaker client) Scott Dacey has been casting himself as the top Trump-booster and beating up incumbent Walter Jones for “opposing Trump” in the 3rd.  Meanwhile, there is little to no evidence that Dacey showed support for Trump until he filed for Congress and hired Shumaker.

Over in the 9th, Shumaker is trying the same ‘Trump-hug’ strategy with his client Robert Pittenger.  Let’s see how THAT is working:

If U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger has his way, the primary election for his seat will become a contest over loyalty to President Donald Trump.

Pittenger, a Republican from the Charlotte area, faces an opponent in Rev. Mark Harris, who came within 134 votes of beating him for the District 9 seat in June 2016.[…]

Harris has attempted to position himself to the right of Pittenger. So Pittenger recently released an ad that casts Harris as a critic of Trump, who carried the district with 54 percent of the vote in 2016.

In the ad, a newspaper headline appears on screen and reads, “Mark Harris worked to stop a Trump presidency.”

The ad’s narrator says, “Mark Harris worked to stop Trump from being president.”

In a news release accompanying the ad, Pittenger strategist Paul Shumaker said Harris “led the ‘Stop Trump’ campaign” before the GOP convention.

Harris, for his part, told The Charlotte Observer that there’s “no record whatsoever that I was part of a Stop Trump movement.”

PolitiFact contacted the Pittenger campaign about the claim. The campaign directed us to a WBT Radio clip from March 10, 2016, in which Harris talks about his support of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.


“He’s gonna be the next president of the United States,” Harris said of Cruz during the interview.

“It does seem that Donald Trump does have somewhat of a ceiling,” Harris said. “And in these close primaries, he loses most of the time. So I think that’s an interesting aspect. So I think coalescing behind Ted Cruz is a way to stop Donald Trump and go into the convention, get our nominee and come out and beat Hillary Clinton in the fall.

The radio host then asks Harris if he’d support Trump if Trump were to become the Republican nominee.

“That’s an interesting question,” Harris responds. “I think everyone is weighing that out and considering that.”

“To be honest, it’s a very concerning decision that will have to be made because we’re looking at one entire generation of Supreme Court justices being nominated that will affect us and I’m truly concerned most of all of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders having that ability to choose,” Harris continued. “I feel somewhat better about Donald Trump making those appointments but I can’t tell you I feel great about that by any stretch of the imagination.”


PolitiFact contacted the Harris campaign about the radio clip. Spokesman Andy Yates acknowledged in an email that Harris had concerns about Trump prior to his nomination.

But, Yates added, so did “the 60 percent of NC primary voters who voted for someone other than Donald Trump for president in the March primary, including Congressman Pittenger who was still supporting outspoken Trump opponent Marco Rubio.”

Marco Rubio ?????  *Gee, the ad didn’t say anything about THAT.*

(Or about Pittenger’s refusal to stop ObamaCare or his support for amnesty for illegals or …)


[…] The North Carolina primaries took place on March 15, 2016. That’s when Trump won a plurality of the votes, with 40 percent, and Cruz was the runner-up with 36 percent.

Yates provided a link to Pittenger’s Feb. 3 endorsement of Rubio and defended the “stop Trump” comment, pointing out that the radio interview took place four months prior to the Republican National Convention.

“Dr. Harris was fully supporting President Trump well before the convention and never engaged in any efforts to try to stop President Trump from receiving the nomination he had won,” Yates said.

[…] Certainly, campaigning for another candidate can be considered “working against” another. So how long did it take for Harris to support Trump?

Harris “switched his support to Trump when it became clear to him that Trump had secured the delegates necessary to win the Republican nomination,” Yates said. “Mark said that if he remembered correctly it was around the time of the California primary.”

The California primary in 2016 was held on June 7. By June 27 of that year, The Charlotte Observer wrote a story casting Harris as a defender of Trump’s.

“There’s more than just a four-year term for a president at stake,” Harris said, referring to Trump’s critics. “I think there’s a 40-year generation at stake. Decisions will be made by the next president that will affect us for 40 years.”

Pittenger, for his part, shifted his support to Trump that May. Shaheen forwarded an email that Pittenger sent to the Charlotte Observer on May 4. Pittenger was then quoted as supporting Trump in the Charlotte Agenda later that month.

By the time November rolled around, the Daily Beast wrote a story that referred to Harris as “part of Trump’s North Carolina spiritual advisory group.” Yates said Harris ultimately traveled to six states to support Trump and that he endorsed Trump from the pulpit at Charlotte First Baptist, where he was a pastor.


PolitiFact North Carolina ruling

Pittenger’s ad said, “Mark Harris worked to stop Trump from being president.” Pittenger has a point that Harris supported Ted Cruz for president until Trump became the Republican nominee. But he left out the important context that Pittenger also supported another candidate.

It’s disingenuous to cast Harris as someone who tried to sabotage Trump without providing context that Harris not only supported Trump after he became the nominee, but was reported to be among his spiritual advisers. We rate this claim Mostly False.