‘Trying to out-MAGA each other.’ NC’s Cooper defends Democrats’ involvement in GOP races

·3 min read
Dawn Vaughan/dvaughan@newsobserver.com

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is defending the Democratic Governors Association’s strategy of spending money highlighting the most extreme Republican candidates’ ties to former President Donald Trump.

GOP candidates are trying to “out-MAGA” each other, said Cooper, who is chair of the DGA, which works to elect Democratic governors.

The DGA has taken criticism for funding advertisements that could work in favor of more conservative Republican candidates. Trump remains popular among the GOP base, so highlighting his ties to a candidate could help that candidate in a primary election, giving Democrats a farther-right opponent in the general election who they hope would be easier to beat.

The DGA paid for a television ad this summer about Maryland Republican Dan Cox, a candidate in that state’s gubernatorial primary, NBC News reported. It shows Cox’s alignment with Trump. Cox won the primary in July. DGA’s spending on the Cox ad and others drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans about how the money could just push Republican voters toward Trump loyalists, WRAL reported.

Asked by The News & Observer on Thursday about the DGA’s move and if he signed off on it, Cooper said, “there are no Liz Cheneys running for governor in this country.”

“These guys all fall in line” behind Trump, he said about Republicans.

“And what we have is right-wing MAGA candidates who are trying to out-MAGA each other. And then when they get the nomination they turn around and try to act more moderate,” Cooper said.

MAGA stands for Trump’s campaign slogan to “Make America Great Again” and has come to be shorthand for his supporters.

Cheney, a Republican U.S. House member from Wyoming, is vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, which has been holding hearings presenting evidence about the violent mob of Trump supporters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to overturn the election of President Joe Biden. Cheney is facing her own primary this month.

Cooper said that Republican primary candidates have celebrated getting Trump’s endorsement, then not mentioned it later when running in the general election.

“And it is important for the DGA to educate the public as to the right-wing stances of these candidates, and that will help get Democratic governors elected in the general election, which is crucial,” Cooper said.

Cooper’s future plans

Cooper’s role as DGA chair has elevated his presence on the national political level, spurring speculation about his plans after his second term as governor ends in 2024. He is always evasive when reporters ask about his plans, and was again on Thursday, saying he had “no idea” about that.

Earlier this week, The N&O asked Morgan Jackson, a Democratic strategist for Cooper, about the governor’s plans, as Cooper has been floated in Democratic circles and some media as a possible candidate for president or U.S. Senate. Jackson said Cooper is “laser-like focused” on this year’s election and final two years of his term, including his goal of Medicaid expansion.

“He’s got a lot of time left on the clock,” Jackson said, to “think about options down the road.”

For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Under the Dome politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it at https://campsite.bio/underthedome or wherever you get your podcasts.