RALEIGH, N.C. – A Republican strategist on Monday said next year's candidates would do well to focus on policy as opposed to the impeachment question.

Jonathan Felts has known both Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis for a while. He said Burr has always had an independent streak, so he's not surprised Burr voted to convict former President Donald Trump.

Burr faces censure by the North Carolina Republican Party on Monday night due to his vote. This would make him the second of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict the 45th president to face censure at home, following Louisiana's Bill Cassidy. During an interview with Spectrum News 1 ahead of Monday night's vote, N.C. GOP Chair Michael Whatley said the move is meant to signal disagreement with Burr's impeachment vote, not his career as a whole.

“I've talked with hundreds of party leaders and activists all across the state, and to a person, they're very upset with the vote,” he said. “I think this is an opportunity for the party to just make it clear that it's disappointed.”

Burr is retiring at the end of his term, so his seat will be open during the 2022 election. Felts said given Trump's enduring popularity with the party base, Republican candidates should focus on policy issues that will resonate with voters, such as the rapid development of multiple COVID-19 vaccines through Operation Warp Speed.

“That's a great achievement that needs to be promoted and yet Republicans right now are more focused on the circular firing squad than they are in promoting the real achievements that they have accomplished in the Trump Administration,” he said.

Felts said the former president himself will be the biggest wild card in the midterms. If Trump limits his campaign activities, he said that gives Republican candidates some flexibility in terms of how they frame their platforms. If Trump plays a very active role in down-ballot races, as he did in 2018 and 2020, Felts said the party will continue to revolve around him.