FILE – In this May 18, 2019, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a house party campaign stop in Rochester, N.H. Rising disagreement among congressional Democrats over whether to pursue impeachment of President Donald Trump has had little effect on the party’s presidential candidates, who mostly are avoiding calls to start such an inquiry. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
Ever notice that the moment a “bellwether” race breaks in favor of the GOP, it ceases to be a bellwether in the media?
That’s what we saw last night and this morning, as most major media put out quick tweets and the dropped talking about the much ballyhooed special elections in North Carolina altogether. Some outlets though, like CNN, are doubling down, presenting this as some kind of moral victory for Democrats.
“Here’s why the Republican win was really good news for the Democrats” is the expected CNN take. https://t.co/SP1iTS7Y7E
— Doug Powers (@ThePowersThatBe) September 11, 2019
Can someone remind me what campaign Ana Navarro has strategized for in the last decade? Just thought I’d ask that. Regardless, pretending this is the same outcome as 2018 is incredibly dishonest.
Here’s what the spin is: This was a district won by Trump in 2016 by 12 points. Therefore, a 2 point win last night is bad news for Republicans.
This ignores not only the context of the race, but also the shifts we saw at the county level.
First, Democrats far outspent the Republican in this race. Over $8M was shoveled into the coffers of McCready by liberals from across the country. He was able to dominate earned and unearned media. He was also touted on countless plugs in the national media. Meanwhile, Bishop was not only fighting a battle against massive outside money, he had to fight the perception of GOP corruption after the vote harvesting scandal that took place in 2018. Despite that, he not only won, he won by a margin no one thought he’d get. In the end, this won’t even trigger a recount.
Secondly, when you get into the internals of how this race went, you see positive movement for Republicans in an environment we are constantly told shouldn’t produce such.
There's no other way to say it: McCready (D) has turned in a terrible performance in low-income Robeson Co., where registered Ds outnumber Rs 60%-13% (not a typo) but Trump *won* in 2016.
McCready (D) won Robeson by 15.3% in 2018, but he's only ahead by *3.1%* w/ 92% reporting.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) September 11, 2019
Why is that important? Because this is exactly the kind of county that narrowly went for Trump in 2016 but went heavy Democrat in 2018. Last night, it nearly flipped back and that’s without a presidential race going on. Was it turnout? Changed minds? We can’t know that at such a micro level, but what it shows is that Trump has room to take back some of these counties his party lost in 2018. If he’s to win in 2020, he has to hold the blue collar, Democrat counties he flipped in 2016 and this shows it’s not a given, but possible for him to do.
Here’s another data point involving Robeson Co. This was another area that swung to Trump from Obama in 2016 but Democrats dominated in 2018. Last night, the Republican took it back with a huge shift in voting.
— J. Miles Coleman (@JMilesColeman) September 11, 2019
Cumberland Co. also went from Democrat in 2018 to Republican in 2016. Meanwhile, in the other race of the night (North Carolina District 3) the Republican actually beat Trump’s 2016 margin.
No one reading this should spin what I’m saying. I’m not saying this race is dispositive of what will happen in 2020. I’m not even saying it’s great news for Republicans. It’s the minimum they needed to do. But, what it shows is that Trump has room to regain ground the party lost in 2018 and that he’s already begun the process of doing so. It also shows that Trump has a unique gift at driving Republican turnout in the areas that can change the race (blue collar, purple state districts that normally vote Democrat).
Let’s be clear. McCready was favored to win this race over Bishop. The district itself was laiden with pitfalls for the Republican because of what happened in 2018. Despite that, the Republican won by a bigger margin than thought probable and Trump himself showed he still has the power to get Republican voters to the polls.
What this means for 2020, again, can’t be known fully yet, but in noway can this be spun as good news for Democrats. If anything, it shows that both sides have a path forward. Trump can drive base turnout in key districts while Democrats could compete in those same districts if they run moderate candidates. McCready was a blue dog, not a progressive.
BUT, here’s the million dollar question: What happens in this district in 2020 when it’s Elizabeth Warren on the ballot?
Anyone think Trump only wins NC9 by 2 points if it’s a liberal, NE socialist he’s running against? That’s what I think a lot of people are missing in all this. The candidate Trump draws in 2020 is going to matter greatly and the signs we saw last night show he’s got a lot of room to grow his support in these moderate districts IF he successfully brands his opponent as a radical. Unless it’s Joe Biden, he’s going to have a great probability of doing just that.
Democrats trying to use a blue dog Democrat losing in a special election as a moral victory are kidding themselves. If we are talking retaining the House, sure, assuming the Democrats run a bunch of moderates. If we are talking the 2020 election, last night was in noway good news for Democrats. Don’t be gaslit otherwise.
I’ve got a new twitter! Please help by following @bonchieredstate.