GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – A political concept first revealed last month by WGHP – that North Carolina’s Republican candidates for Congress were downplaying abortion rights positions on their campaign websites – has gained momentum across the country.

Republican candidate for U.S. House of Representatives Bo Hines (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

And now there is another trend: Some are creating space between their candidacies and an endorsement by former President Donald Trump.

Bo Hines, the GOP nominee in the 13th Congressional District, has joined the four WGHP reported to have ignored the topics on their issues pages, including Christian Castelli, the GOP nominee in the 6th Congressional District, who changed his page after winning a crowded primary. Castelli faces incumbent Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) in November.

Hines made the move in the past couple of weeks, restructuring the issues page and removing “Life & Family” as a topic. When WGHP reviewed the site in early August, it said he would “always defend the pro-life movement.”

Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), who represents the current 13th District and is the Republican nominee to replace retiring Richard Burr in the U.S. Senate race, has moved down abortion on his issues page.

Budd continues to say on his site that he “believes every life is precious and every person is made in God’s image. Science tells us that each of us is unique from conception, and we all have an unalienable constitutional right to life and protection under the law.” But he moved that reference from second on his page as of July 23, The New York Times reported, to fifth in a reformatted arrangement. WGHP did its review in early August.

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 18: Republican Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina speaks on the last day of the annual "Road To Majority Policy Conference" held by the Faith & Freedom Coalition at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center June 18, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. Former President Donald Trump's appearance on the first day of the conference came on the heels of the third public hearing by the House committee investigating the attack on our U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Seth Herald/Getty Images)
Republican Rep. Ted Budd (Photo by Seth Herald/Getty Images)

The Times and others report that the abortion trend developed because the issue has emerged as pivotal since the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade and its constitutional endorsement of a woman’s right to choose. That position was underscored in August when voters in Kansas rejected removing right-to-choice from the state’s constitution.

North Carolina is one of 29 states in which abortions remain legal – albeit with limits to 20 weeks – and five states have pending or likely removal of rights. Abortion has been banned almost entirely in the other 17 states and four where it is like to be banned soon including Indiana, which passed such a bill in August.

But polls consistently have shown Americans prefer some access to abortion, and that has appeared to have heightened since the court’s ruling. Before then North Carolinians also wanted to maintain abortion options.

Democrats are pointing to these changes in position, and national news outlets such as The Washington Post and Politico have noted that the issue spans the spectrum of GOP candidates.

No change for most

There is no change noted among the other Republicans running for North Carolina’s 14 seats in the House.

Incumbent and staunch conservative Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Denver) of the 10th District still barely mentions a pro-life position on his website, referring to himself as a “staunch defender of the unborn.”

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), another vocal conservative who has moved to the very GOP-safe 8th District that includes Davidson and Montgomery counties from the Piedmont Triad, has not updated his website to add pro-life position among his issues, as his staff had indicated earlier.

Christine Villaverde, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Deborah Ross of Raleigh in the 2nd District, and Courtney Geels, the Republican facing Democrat Valerie Foushee for the 4th District seat (which includes Alamance County), have made no changes to their positions.

Neither have nominees Sandy Smith (1st District) and State Sen. Chuck Edwards (11th District) or incumbents Virginia Foxx (5th), Richard Hudson (9th), Greg Murphy (3rd) or David Rouzer (7th).

The Trump trend

Former President Donald Trump speaks during an event Friday, July 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

But, as the Times notes, Hines and Budd now are part of another trend: separation from their association with former Trump. Budd’s Twitter feed still has as its banner the endorsement by Trump, but you have to give a scrolling endorsement list some time to get to Trump. He comes up after Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn.

Jonathan Felts, Budd’s campaign spokesperson, told the Times that was because Budd is facing a woman, Democrat Cheri Beasley, in November. “We face a female opponent, so we’ve added prominent female politicians who have endorsed Ted,” he said.

The Times reported that Senate candidates Adam Laxalt in Nevada and Blake Masters in Arizona also had downplayed support from Trump, who is embroiled in the controversy about top-secret documents found at his home at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Budd and Beasley are seen as tied in an aggregation of polls monitored by fivethirtyeight.com. Laxalt and Masters are trailing in their races.

Hines doesn’t feature endorsements on his site, but if you click on a page to contribute to his campaign, there is a picture of him with Trump.

But Hines, 26, a former Winston-Salem resident newcomer to politics who has patterned himself after controversial Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Hendersonville), has appeared at campaign events with Trump.

A native of Gastonia and a law student at Wake Forest, Hines shopped for a race during the redistricting process. He had announced runs in both the 5th and 7th Congressional Districts before the map was confirmed. Trump’s endorsement helped him win a crowded primary in what is seen as a toss-up district, and he faces state Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Cary).

Trump’s popularity

Trump’s unfavorable ratings have increased significantly in recent weeks. Fivethirtyeight.com shows swings as much as 23% against him in its aggregated list of eight recent polls. Those range as high as much as 57% unfavorable. His highest favorability rating is 42%.

A new poll by High Point University shows that Trump has a 42% favorable rate in North Carolina and a 51% unfavorable rating. But that same poll shows that Democrats have a very slight lead in generic ballots for November.

A Quinnipiac University Poll published Wednesday shows that most Americans are following Trump’s handling of the documents (76%), and 64% say they consider his actions to be very serious or somewhat serious.

 “While the justice department weighs the evidence, Americans have been watching closely and have their own verdict: former President Trump’s alleged hoarding of classified documents was very serious, very wrong, and half of Americans believe it was a criminal act,” Quinnipiac Polling Analyst Tim Malloy said in a release by the university.