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Special Election in North Carolina a Test for Trump, GOP Prospects in 2020

September 10, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Voters in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District head to the polls Tuesday to finally decide who will represent them: a moderate former Marine who came within a hair of claiming the seat for the Democrats last year, or a conservative Republican who hopes to capitalize on an 11th-hour appearance by President Donald Trump.

The district has been represented by a Republican since 1963, and Trump won the district by 11 percentage points in 2016.

Should Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop win, Trump will be able to claim that he put the GOP over the top.

But if Democrat Dan McCready wins — or even loses by a mere handful of votes — it will be seen as a sign that the Republicans — and the president — are in decline heading into the 2020 elections.

As the sun set on the McCready and Bishop campaigns Monday night, both organizations were predicting a low turnout for the special election and that the result could come down to a few hundred votes, as it did in 2018 — a vote ultimately invalidated after evidence of election fraud surfaced.

Both sides see the race as too close to call, though McCready may have a slight edge in the demographics of the district. More than half the district’s votes likely will come from Charlotte’s suburbs. When Democrats retook the House in 2018, many of their pickups were in suburbs.

“This will tell us if Trump can carry candidates through suburban districts or not,” said Sarah Chamberlain, president of the Republican Main Street Partnership, in an interview with the Associated Press.

The partnership represents moderate Republicans.

If the outcome of Tuesday’s election shows Trump having limited or diminished pull in the Charlotte suburbs, Chamberlain said, the GOP must “work harder to address the concerns of suburban individuals, mainly women.”

At a rally in Fayetteville on Monday night, Trump claimed America’s prospects would dim considerably if Democrats are able to seize more power in Washington.

Trump repeatedly painted the Democrats as a party that has moved to the extreme left on issues like immigration, abortion and health care.

“You don’t have any choice. You have to vote for me,” Trump told the crowd. “What are you going to do: Put one of these crazy people running? They are so far left.”

“Your way of life is under assault by these people,” he claimed.

In urging the crowd to vote for Bishop, Trump declared that “tomorrow is a chance to send a clear message to the America-hating left.”

McCready responded to Trump’s rally by launching a late fund-raising appeal, saying Trump and his allies “scheduled this rally to rile up support for my opponent and increase Republican turnout. The GOP is terrified of losing this race.”

The president enjoys wide popularity within his own party, but a Republican defeat in a red-leaning state could portend trouble for his reelection campaign.

Trump himself dismissed such assertions before leaving Washington Monday night, telling reporters he didn’t see the North Carolina race as a “bellwether.”

This was a marked contrast to Vice President Mike Pence’s assessment of the race.

Also speaking to reporters on Monday, Pence had said the outcome in North Carolina “has implications all across America.”

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