It was former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neal who is famous for popularizing the phrase, “all politics is local.” His main point being that constituents or voters ultimately vote on the issues that will impact them and their own community the most. It’s possible this may be less true today than previously, as everything is becoming politicized and information moves much more rapidly. Undoubtedly we saw a lot of that in the 9th Congressional district matchup between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Dan Bishop. A lot of outside money, attention, and national figures were involved in that race. One of my initial observations from just following the reaction and returns for five minutes on Twitter last night was the obsession with the race by people who lived thousands of miles from the state of North Carolina. And if you were getting news and reaction from Twitter, you would have thought McCready would have easily won because of pure hatred for the president alone.
The media was building up the 9th to be a stunning rebuke of President Donald Trump and his agenda and obviously, at least from a short-term political standpoint, it never materialized. The narrative again shifted after Bishop’s win. Republicans were meant and favored to win all along. Maybe all politics is local after all. In that a conservative candidate ended up winning a largely conservative congressional district.
Sure, Trump still has problems with female voters, particularly white suburban women who sometimes are apt to vote Republican. He also has strength in North Carolina. The latest Civitas Poll, while within the margin of error against most potential Democrat presidential nominees, has Trump beating the field of frontrunners. Biden is closest, trailing by a point. Certainly, one can argue from the last election that Trump’s true support is underestimated by the polls. It felt like that way to me when traveling across parts of rural North Carolina in 2016 when I saw homemade signs for Trump scattered all over some counties. Who puts up homemade political signs anyway? Highly motivated voters, that’s who.
At any rate, it’s hard to take a special congressional election and compare it to past elections, even in the same district. It’s hard to replicate a past election with different candidates on the ballot. I’ll let our elections analyst Andy Jackson do the hard work on the deeper analysis. A key fact though is that McCready won the traditional Democrat Robeson County by 1 percent. He won that county by around 16 percent in 2018. Perhaps it shows that while urban areas are getting bluer, the rural problem for Democrats is getting worse. Bishop improved upon Mark Harris’s numbers in every county except Mecklenburg.
Trump obviously helped to drive turnout. But the issues he pushed along with Bishop clearly favor him in that district. He won there by around 11 or 12 percent we are constantly told. The growing urban areas and strong rural areas make North Carolina a fascinating political state and another reminder that elections will continue to be close in a state that in so many ways, represents our divided nation so well.