What the results of N.C. special election say about 2020

JUDY WOODRUFF: Nearly a year after the midterm
elections and a result that was thrown out
because of evidence of Republican fraud, North
Carolina’s Ninth District finally has a congressman-elect.
Republican Dan Bishop won yesterday’s special
election by less than two points and fewer
than 4,000 votes in a district President Trump
won by nearly 12 points in 2016.
The campaign was seen by both parties as potentially
a first signal about voters’ thoughts ahead
of the 2020 presidential race and the Republican
Party’s strength with suburban voters.
Steve Harrison is a political reporter for
public radio station WFAE in Charlotte, and
he has been tracking the race.
Steve Harrison, thank you very much for joining
us on the “NewsHour.”
What has been reactions across the state to
Dan Bishop’s win?
STEVE HARRISON, WFAE Radio: So, I think that
people were a little surprised, not so much
that Dan Bishop won, but that he won by 2
percentage points.
Now, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but in
the previous race last fall, the Republican
candidate was ahead by 905 votes.
So, this was a little bit bigger margin.
I think one of the early reads on it on for
Republicans is that President Trump came on
Monday night and held a rally for Bishop in
Fayetteville, which is at the far eastern
end of the district, and, apparently, that
Cumberland County is the home of Fayetteville.
Dan McCready, the Democrat, won that last
And this time, Dan Bishop took Cumberland
So, you know, this was a win for the president.
He had — as he was leaving to come down to
North Carolina, he was kind of downplaying
his involvement in the race.
STEVE HARRISON: But then, you know, after
Dan Bishop won, he started taking a lot of
credit for the win.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And which he has done.
This is an interesting district.
It sprawls all the way from Charlotte toward
the western end of the state, all the way
to Fayetteville in the east.
It’s urban, it’s suburban, it’s rural.
What do you see in the results about who voted
for whom that tells you why Bishop won and
why, frankly, McCready came so close?
STEVE HARRISON: So, the district is a gerrymandered
The Republicans drew it to be a safe seat.
And, really, the heart of the district is
a part of Charlotte that is very wealthy,
white, college-educated, and has voted for
Republicans in big margins for decades.
That part of Charlotte, combined with Union
County, a suburban county, has about 60 percent
of the vote.
It’s designed to really carry the district
for Republicans.
But what’s happened is that that part of Charlotte
has really flipped.
Dan McCready won it last fall.
He expanded on that margin this time.
And that part of Charlotte is going more blue.
But, at the same time, Dan Bishop was able
to make inroads in the more rural parts of
the district, working-class voters.
It was a little bit of a replay of 2016.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying and you’re
pointing out and reminding us that McCready,
the Democrat, did better than he did last
What are Republicans taking away from this?
Are they telling you, are you sensing there’s
more nervousness about how — what President
Trump can expect in North Carolina next year?
STEVE HARRISON: So, I spoke with Bishop’s
campaign strategist today, and his view was,
look, we may be losing college-educated voters
in Charlotte, but he said, if we can make
that up by getting working-class voters in
rural counties, that’s OK.
That’s still a winning coalition.
He felt like they were in good shape for statewide
races and going into 2020.
On the Democratic side, like you said earlier,
President Trump won this district by 12 percentage
For the Democrat to get within two points
is a pretty big shift.
And if the Democrats can perform like that
again in 2020, they have a really good chance
of winning North Carolina.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, at this point, just very
quickly on this, Steve Harrison, any sense
of which party is better organized going into
the presidential election?
STEVE HARRISON: I think that North Carolina
will again be a highly contested swing state.
Of course, the Republican National Convention
will be in Charlotte next year.
That’s going to bring a lot of attention here.
But I think that both sides, as they have
for the last two elections, are going to be
spending millions of dollars and lots of time
in North Carolina.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, I want to ask
you about what happened in your state capital,
Raleigh, today.
In a surprise move, the Republicans called
a vote which, in essence, overturned the Democratic
governor’s veto of a budget.
I think this is a reminder — we think the
country is dividing from looking at politics
in Washington.
It’s a reminder it’s very divided at the state
What happened in Raleigh today kind of takes
— takes it to a whole other level.
What happened was, the Democratic governor
of North Carolina had vetoed the Republican
The legislature doesn’t have enough votes
to override the budget.
The Democrats have been — it’s been two months
now with this impasse over what’s going to
happen with the budget.
The Democrats this morning were under the
impression there would be no vote on the budget.
They say that the Republican relationship
had told them that.
The Republicans say no such thing.
And this morning, they had a quorum, and with
hardly any Democrats in the chamber, they
passed an override.
And Democrats were livid.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sounds like not a lot of love
lost at this point, but, again, a reminder
of just how deep the partisan divide, even
at the state and local level.
Thank you very much, Steve Harrison, with
We appreciate it.

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