Trump delivers last-minute pitch for Bishop ahead of NC House election crucial for GOP

Trump delivers last-minute pitch for Bishop ahead of NC House election crucial for GOP
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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE made an aggressive, eleventh-hour pitch for Republican Dan Bishop on Monday as they sought to head off a potentially embarrassing defeat in the looming special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

Speaking at a rally here, Trump went on the attack against Bishop’s Democratic opponent, Marine Corps veteran and businessman Dan McCready. The crucial vote on Tuesday will decide the fate of a hotly contested House seat that has remained vacant for the better part of a year.

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“You must defeat open borders, and you have a Democrat named Dan McCready, and he wants open borders. He wants sanctuary cities. He’s not going to protect your Second Amendment,” Trump said.

“Our great Republican candidate Dan Bishop will fight with everything he has to stop sanctuary cities,” he added before calling Bishop on stage.

“We’ve all watched as the Democratic Party, the socialist Democratic Party, seeks the president’s destruction everyday,” Bishop said, echoing a key talking point in Trump’s 2020 strategy. “We’ve seen a dishonest media serve as their handmaidens and their allies in that mission.”

Bishop and his allies have hinged his success in that race on Trump, frequently touting his support for the president’s agenda. They’re hoping that the last-minute visit by Trump boosts Republican voter turnout on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Democrats are counting on a sweeping voter outreach operation and McCready’s moderate bona fides to push him across the finish line. McCready was in Fayetteville earlier on Monday for a get-out-the-vote event with a group of veterans.

The special election was called earlier this year after state officials voided the results of a November 2018 contest following an investigation into a wide-reaching ballot fraud scheme allegedly committed by a contractor for then-Republican candidate Mark HarrisMark HarrisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate Why my American Indian tribe voted Republican in NC's special election North Carolina race raises 2020 red flags for Republicans, Democrats MORE’s campaign. Before the new election was called, Harris led McCready by a razor-thin 905-vote margin.

After the special election was ordered, Harris dropped out of the race, kicking off a primary contest that eventually rendered Bishop as the new Republican candidate on the ballot.

The special election between Bishop and McCready is the first major test of the political landscape heading into the 2020 election cycle, when Trump will once again face voters. The two candidates are polling neck and neck, and both acknowledge that the race could come down to the margins.

Trump’s rally on Monday was something of an exclamation point at the end of Bishop’s campaign, which has leaned heavily on his support for the president and his policy priorities.

He’s talked frequently about the need to build Trump’s proposed border wall and has adopted the president’s strategy heading in 2020, repeatedly linking McCready to "the Squad" — the group of four progressive congresswomen who have become a frequent target of Trump’s ire — and accusing him of pushing a socialist agenda.

In turn, Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee have funneled resources into the race for months. The RNC has 20 full-time staffers deployed throughout the state, Trump’s allies have fundraised aggressively for Bishop and the president himself has recorded robocalls encouraging residents to vote.

Vice President Pence rallied with Bishop at Wingate University in deeply conservative Union County on Monday afternoon ahead of Trump’s appearance in Fayetteville in the easternmost reaches of the 9th District.

The Trump campaign’s last-minute effort to bolster Bishop’s campaign reflects how eager conservatives are to hold on to a district that has been represented by Republicans for nearly 60 years and one that the president carried by nearly 12 points in 2016.

But Republicans have seen their political stock in similarly situated areas across the country decline in recent years as suburban voters have turned against Trump’s brand of conservatism. Democrats are hoping that trend continues in North Carolina’s 9th District.

In an interview on Monday, Kayleigh McEnany, the national press secretary for the Trump campaign, rebuffed the notion that the 9th District special election would be a bellwether for 2020.

“We think there’s a big difference when the president’s name is at the top of the ballot. He won this district by double digits [in 2016],” she said. “But in '18, his name wasn’t on the ballot, so he can try his best to mobilize support behind the Republican candidate, but it only goes so far when he’s not there to lift the tide of Republicans.”

“That’s the whole point of tonight, is to try to translate that support to Dan Bishop,” she added.

Democrats, meanwhile, have pointed to Trump’s appearance as a sign of weakness in Bishop’s campaign and a last-ditch effort to turn out otherwise unenthusiastic voters on Election Day.

“That to me shows desperation,” said José Santiago, the first vice chairman of the Democratic Party in Union County, a traditional Republican stronghold. “They’re concerned, they’re worried, so they’re bringing everything they can.”

Santiago said that like suburban and exurban areas across the country, Union County was in the midst of a political transformation. New voters from more Democratic-leaning parts of the country have moved there in recent years, he said, and many residents, Republicans included, have soured on Trump’s brand of politics.

“If you look at the district, if you look at the county, it’s no longer just pure red, all conservative,” said Santiago, adding that he joined the Democratic Party after Trump’s election in 2016. “A lot of people have moved in. It’s become a lot more purple.”

“They don’t want somebody who’s going to be 100 percent Trump. They want somebody who’s going to actually represent them,” he added.