As I wrote earlier this week, Democratic Senate nominee Cal Cunningham has become persona non grata in his own party now as we head into week four of him refusing to answer questions about the one, possibly two affairs the married father of two has conducted during the course of his Senate campaign.
It’s gotten so bad for Cunningham here that not only is he skipping out on some of his virtual town halls and being dropped from local fundraisers, but Gov. Roy Cooper (D) was caught on hot mic during Joe Biden’s Sunday visit to the state promising to drag Cunningham over the finish line in spite of the scandal.
“I think we’re gonna all get across the line. I think Cal’s gonna get across the line, too. I know that’s frustrating. We’ll get him across,” Cooper told the Democratic presidential nominee as his entourage touched down at RDU for a campaign stop in Durham.
Cunningham, an Army veteran, has also crossed a line few Democrats do in North Carolina — by getting on the bad side of the local political press corps. Like Democrats at the national level, Democrats here mostly get the kid-glove treatment from the media — especially from reporters based at or near the state capital in Raleigh.
But the man now dubbed “Cad Cunningham” in certain circles did himself no favors in the first “press conference” he held post-scandal news, spending 30 minutes talking with constituents about his Republican opponent Sen. Thom Tillis’ alleged “failures” on the COVID relief bill while only giving reporters 10 minutes to ask questions.
He did not answer a single one, and that pseudo-presser set the stage for the media’s continuous post-presser attempts at getting him to go on camera and on record, attempts that so far the campaign have denied.
Watch the super-cut video below of various local reporters repeatedly talking about how his campaign has refused interview requests time and time again over the course of several weeks:
Here’s another reporter from WFMY noting her station had interviewed Tillis but that Cunningham’s campaign “could not” do an interview that day:
— Grace Holland (@gracesholland) October 22, 2020
Here’s WSOC-TV reporter Joe Bruno, noting that one of the news station’s photographers did manage to get Cunningham to talk after an event earlier today in an unscheduled moment. But he also pointed out that “previous requests” for official interviews “have not been granted”:
This interview was unscheduled. Photographer John Evans caught up with Cunningham after an event. We have been asking and will continue to ask for an interview with Cunningham between now and Election Day. Previous requests have not been granted. More at 6 @wsoctv
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) October 23, 2020
The Raleigh News and Observer and the Charlotte Observer, two very left-leaning newspapers on par with the Washington Post and the New York Times, have actually pulled their planned endorsement of Cunningham’s campaign in a rare move:
— 𝑴𝒊𝒌𝒆 𝑹𝒖𝒔𝒉𝒆𝒓 (@mjrusher) October 18, 2020
It’s kind of ironic that Cunningham’s avoidance of the media has had the opposite effect he’d hoped for by actually keeping the one issue he wants to go away very much in the spotlight.
Cunningham appears to be taking the Joe Biden strategy to the extreme — avoiding reporters altogether until election day:
Cal Cunningham last spoke to a reporter on 10/9.
He's really going to try to go the final 25 days of the campaign without taking a single question from the press. https://t.co/Sp6X4GTwrz
— Jesse Hunt (@JJHunt10) October 22, 2020
But while the media here are continuing to press Cunningham for answers, at the same time they’re being careful not to give Sen. Tillis too much ammunition to run with down the final stretch:
Last week, McClatchy rejected NRSC web ads on Cal Cunningham’s affair with little explanation.
This comes after the Editorial Board edited an unflattering interview where Cal refused to answer questions about his involvement w/ a controversial development https://t.co/1ddQCnRus0
— Joanna Rodriguez (@joannamrod) October 19, 2020
The most recent polls are now showing this race either being tied or with Cunningham’s lead being within the MOE.
Fasten your seatbelts on this one, y’all. It’s going right down to the wire.