‘Republicans normally would have been expected to dominate in a district that Trump won…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Media spin on the Republican victory in Tuesday’s “bellwether” election for North Carolina‘s 9th Congressional District proved to be the only thing predictable about the contest between GOP Rep.-elect Dan Bishop and his opponent, Democrat Dan McCready.
After months of playing up the likelihood of a blue rout and preemptively declaring it to be a defeat for President Donald Trump, left-wing pundits continued to grasp at paper straws in the face of certain defeat.
“Republicans normally would have been expected to dominate in a district that Trump won, but data released to the public ahead of the Tuesday vote showed a close race, underscoring GOP troubles in the suburbs during the Trump era,” CNN falsely reported.
Unlike his predecessor, Mark Harris, who took on McCready last year — securing a margin of 905 votes that was later invalidated amid allegations of ballot fraud — Bishop expanded his victory margin to more than 4,000 votes for the newly redrawn district, revealing a clear upswing in Trump’s favor.
Dan Bishop was down 17 points 3 weeks ago. He then asked me for help, we changed his strategy together, and he ran a great race. Big Rally last night. Now it looks like he is going to win. @CNN & @MSNBC are moving their big studio equipment and talent out. Stay tuned!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2019
Other factors also suggested that the race could portend a strong 2020 showing for Trump—as well as possible reversals in many of the red districts that Democrats claimed in 2018, should they continue to ignore the warning signs.
Presidential elections, conversely, are more likely to benefit the party of the incumbent president.
Since the Reagan era, every sitting president has enjoyed a coattail effect in his re-election year that offered mild (often single-digit) gains in the House of Representatives. With the exception of George H.W. Bush, all have also been re-elected during that same 35-year span.
This would suggest that Republicans may, at the very least, erode Democrats’ 35-member advantage (discounting Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., who was elected as a Republican) if not retake the majority in the House next year.
In covering North Carolina’s special election, left-wing media played up the fact that McCready bested Bishop by about 8,000 votes in the affluent suburbs of Mecklenburg County, southeast of Charlotte.
This ignored, however, the fact that most of the races in the county also overlapped with Democratic primaries for the municipal elections coming up in November.
It is impossible to conjecture which way the coattail effect may have swung in such cases—whether Democrats voting in those primaries might otherwise have come out to vote in the special congressional election, or if it positively impacted the county races that overlapped.
But in a race with a relatively small overall turnout of just under 200,000 votes, the effect of the local primaries on mobilizing Democratic voters compared with the effect of next year’s presidential race mobilizing more Republicans can’t be dismissed.
Centrist vs. Socialist
Bishop full-throatedly embraced the current administration—which did, as many have asserted, make the race a test of the president’s continuing support among his base after three years of mostly anti-Trump headlines.
On the Democrat side, though, McCready’s campaign was hardly a measure of how radical progressives at the national level will fare in the district.
McCready ran his campaign by actively courting Republican defectors with catchphrases like “country over party” and heavy emphasis on a pro-military, pro-business background that misleadingly suggested he would side with House Republicans.
This, of course, belied the millions of dollars in far-left special-interest money he allowed to flood both the 2018 and 2019 races on his behalf.
Nationally, while former Vice President Joe Biden could potentially tap into the same disingenuous “centrist” appeal, Democratic candidates running in the 2020 primary all fall sharply to McCready’s left in terms of policies.
Suggesting that McCready’s success in eroding Trump’s margin of support in the district will mirror that of other socialism-supporting candidates seems vastly optimistic for a party that has moved so far leftward as to make even Hillary Clinton seem moderate.
If anything, the momentum seems already to be shifting toward Trump. Bishop was able to win two counties of the district that previously supported McCready.
Moreover, in Robeson County, where Harris lost to McCready by 15 percentage points last year, Bishop was able to narrow the gap to 1 percent with help from Trump, even overcoming a substantial deficit in early voting that favored the Democrat.
One of the most egregious ways that liberal pundits attempted to cherry-pick their false conclusions in the race was by treating the 9th Congressional District as if it were the same in 2016.
Since the last presidential election, liberal activists have repeatedly sued Republican state legislators to insist that the maps were biased.
The result was court-forced gerrymandering to create more left-friendly electoral maps, making it an apples-and-oranges comparison.
This change was so greatly downplayed by the press that many voters in the neighboring 12th district arrived at the polls expecting to vote in the special election, only to be disappointed.
The 2016 map, under which Republicans dominated, may actually have pulled from an area that was less red overall than the current district.
The old district was largely concentrated around the outskirts of Charlotte, where Hillary Clinton won by large margins.
The previous Republican incumbent, Robert Pittenger—who also carried the suburbs, despite his opposition to Trump policies—was ousted after the redrawing of the districts led to a contentious GOP primary, from which the more conservative Harris emerged victorious.
Although a handful of Trump regions in the lower suburbs of Mecklenburg County swung for McCready on Tuesday, they may just as easily be accounted for by shifting demographics and other candidate-specific circumstances as by a reversal in political attitudes.
But the maps may well change again before next year’s race, rendering moot any effort to divine how the district might look, even if the people living in it were to remain largely the same.
A recent state-court decision—celebrated by former President Barack Obama and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee—ruled in favor of the activist group Common Cause, which had complained that the districts they helped to forcibly redraw in 2017 did not go far enough in making the elections more favorable to the Left.
Should Democrats nominally claim the district at some point in the future, they can thank the liberal courts for delivering it to them rather than the strength and appeal of their messaging.
For all practical purposes, after two years of running in a closely followed race, McCready had the same benefits of financing and name exposure as a sitting incumbent—and, indeed, he straddled the center–left line much the way Pittenger had before him from the center–right.
Bishop also was a known entity in the county, having represented it previously as a state senator, where he drew headlines for his strong conservative values—including his sponsorship of HB1, the transgender bathroom bill.
While it is possible that McCready may once again challenge Bishop in next year’s election—or that another high-profile Democrat may emerge to take on the battle-weary incumbent—having been entrenched in Congress for a year will likely shore up additional support for the GOP as true swing voters will see little need to drastically change courses.