"He's not OK": The entirely predictable unraveling of Madison Cawthorn

The scope of Cawthorn’s troubles is broad, the implications transcending mere politics. More than 70 interviews with people who know Cawthorn, who have worked for him and against him, allies and enemies, activists and operatives and longtime watchers of politics here in the mountains of western North Carolina, paint a picture of a man in crisis. Cawthorn, they say, is an immature college dropout with a thin work resume, a scofflaw and serial embellisher who was neither qualified nor prepared for the responsibility and the scrutiny that comes with the office he holds. They describe him as a person whose ongoing physical pain and insecurities have made him unusually susceptible to the twisted incentives of a political environment and a Trump-led GOP that prizes perhaps above all else outrage and partisan attack.

“He’s not OK,” said Michele Woodhouse, the former Republican chair of the 11th District who’s now running against him. “He’s very unwell,” said a Republican strategist familiar with Cawthorn. “The recovery is not complete,” said David Rhode, a fellow Hendersonville native who knew Cawthorn pre-politics but now works for Wendy Nevarez, another one of Cawthorn’s current opponents. “He’s got some deep issues that will probably never go away,” said Chuck Archerd, a Republican who ran against him in 2020. “It’s never going to be just totally fine,” said a friend…

“Politics is like a vice amplifier, where everybody has a need for affirmation, a need to be important, to be recognized. And then when you’re a young man who has a terrible accident like that, and your identity is kind of stripped from you, all of that is amplified even more,” said a GOP consultant who knows Cawthorn. “I worry about him.”

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