RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Ahead of former President Donald Trump’s arraignment Thursday, two of North Carolina’s top Republicans said they’re prepared to support him again if he’s the Republican nominee for president but also questioned if he can win next November.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) spoke about the latest case against Trump, which focuses on his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
“Every time he gets indicted, it strengthens him within the party and arguably it makes it more difficult for him to actually win,” said Sen. Berger. “I almost think you’ve got to play it out through an election to either confirm or rebut that.”
Neither Moore nor Berger has endorsed any of the Republican candidates for president but both said they will support the eventual nominee, including if it is former President Trump.
It’s unclear if either will endorse a candidate before North Carolina’s primary next March.
“It’s not helpful to have your strongest candidate under some sort of indictment. But, one, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I do think there’s politics involved with the indictment,” said Speaker Moore. “As I look at it and see it, it strikes me that it’s got a political smell to it.”
The former president was indicted earlier this week amid the ongoing investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith. Trump is also facing charges over his handling of classified documents and in a separate case in New York in a hush-money case.
With North Carolina poised to play a key role in determining who ultimately is elected next November, Catawba College political expert Michael Bitzer said the series of criminal cases against Trump “presents Republicans with a real dilemma come November of 2024 and that is the down-ballot effect.”
In addition to the presidential contest, North Carolina is also expected to see the most fiercely contested gubernatorial race in the nation.
Atty. Gen. Josh Stein is the only Democrat in that race so far. While there are multiple Republican candidates, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is the front-runner and has endorsed Trump in his re-election bid.
Bitzer noted amid the series of indictments against Trump, his support among Republicans has “strengthened or solidified.”
“I really am at a loss to try and figure out what, if anything, could derail a Trump renomination at this point,” he said. “None of the major candidates that are substantially behind him right now seem to be willing to go after him.”
Bitzer stressed the unprecedented nature of the situation.
“This is something that American politics has never seen,” said Bitzer. “This is whole new charted territory for us.”