Republicans threaten to primary Cawthorn

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“It comes down to focus on the district, producing results for the district, and in my opinion, Mr. Cawthorn hasn’t demonstrated much in the way of results over the last 18 months,” Tillis told CNN, describing why he is backing state Sen. Chuck Edwards in his primary against Cawthorn.

Amid complaints from members, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy hauled Cawthorn into his office Wednesday morning and pressed him on the unsettling allegations, which he said Cawthorn admitted were untrue, and told the freshman lawmaker he needs to get his act together or else he could face internal consequences.

“He’s got to turn himself around,” McCarthy told reporters. “I just told him he’s lost my trust, and he’s going to have to earn it back. I laid out everything I find that’s unbecoming. … He’s got a lot of members upset. You can’t just make statements out there.”

Cawthorn declined to answer questions from CNN in the Capitol about the meeting or his allegations and said to contact his office. His office did not return multiple requests for comment.

On Thursday, Cawthorn tweeted out a video defending himself and blaming the left and the media for attacking him.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he wrote.

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Many Republicans — who say Cawthorn has rebuffed repeated attempts to show him the ropes — think he is more interested in generating headlines than serious legislating and has alienated himself in the House GOP as a result. Some Republicans worry that Cawthorn and a handful of other vocal fringe members in the party are hurting the GOP brand and creating an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction in their quest to win back the majority.

Retiring Sen. Richard Burr — the senior GOP senator from North Carolina — told CNN he won’t be getting involved in Cawthorn’s primary, but added: “On any given day, he’s an embarrassment.”

Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who represents a district won by President Joe Biden, said Cawthorn’s bizarre allegations about sex acts and drug use were “terrible” and that he shares “the anger of my colleagues.”

And Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota told CNN that instead of an angel and devil on Cawthorn’s shoulder, “in Madison’s case it’s Lloyd Christmas on one shoulder and Harry Dunne on the other shoulder” — a reference to the main characters in the movie “Dumb and Dumber.”

“People are flat pissed off,” Armstrong added.

The public and private broadsides illustrate how Cawthorn, who was once seen as a rising star inside the GOP, has quickly become persona non grata inside his own party. But McCarthy’s past efforts to rein in the fringe members inside his conference haven’t worked, and it’s unclear if the push to defeat Cawthorn in North Carolina will fare any better. The congressman is facing at least five Republican candidates in his primary, who could split the vote against him, and needs to earn…


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