If you paid attention to the political media in advance of last Tuesday’s 9th Congressional District special election, you might have gotten the impression Democrat Dan McCready was going to win it.
Everyone was predicting it would be a close race, to be sure. After all, the district had been in Republican hands since the mid-’60s.
But McCready, a former Marine and Iraq war veteran, was going to defy the odds. He was playing it safe by going the moderate route instead of fully embracing Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and self-described democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
He had the money advantage. He had the advantage of campaigning in the district for more than two years.
Anti-Trump editorial boards at major North Carolina newspapers were in his corner. And Democrats were madder than wet hens over the tainted results of the November 2018 race.
The race was considered a 2020 bellwether. A McCready win would mean that for incumbent Congressional Republicans, the writing was on the wall for 2020. In other words: either distance yourself from Trump or start packing your bags.
But in spite of all the momentum being in McCready’s corner, a funny thing happened. Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop, who had just a few months to campaign for the seat in contrast to McCready, won the special election by 2 percentage points.
It happened the day after President Trump campaigned for him in Fayetteville.
Bishop even flipped two counties that had previously gone to McCready in 2018 and wasn’t far off from flipping a third.
Suddenly, the 9th Congressional District special election was no longer a bellwether. Political analysts shifted gears.
Instead of a McCready win signaling dark days ahead for Republicans in competitive House districts throughout the country, a Bishop win signaled “warning signs for both parties,” according to one popular liberal website.
Per the New York Times, “Mr. Bishop’s narrow victory over Dan McCready in a conservative district demonstrated warning signs for President Trump in 2020.”
Perhaps the best post-election hot take of all came from Pelosi herself, just two days after Bishop’s win. McCready “won the campaign. He didn’t win the election, but he won the campaign,” she stated.
It was a take failed Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who has refused to concede her 2018 election loss to Republican Brian Kemp, would surely appreciate.
Does last Tuesday’s race mean Congressional Republicans are going to have it easy in next year’s elections? Of course not.
Every race is unique and carries with it its own special challenges. Whether it’s a swing district, a so-called “safe seat,” or even a seat they feel is an extreme long shot, Republicans who want to win still must fight for every vote.
To do that, they must knock on every door. Shake every hand. Campaign like they are 20 points down, even if polling shows them 20 points ahead.
They should also attempt to make inroads with and work to win over voters who otherwise would not be inclined to vote for them. Grow the party and the base.
With all of that said, one thing that unites Democrats and Republicans alike in the aftermath of last Tuesday’s special election is the welcome knowledge that for a few months at least we will no longer be inundated with political ads about Congressional races.
Why only for a few months? Because Bishop won the last undecided race of the 2018 election cycle. Filing in North Carolina for the 2020 races starts in December.
So we’ll get to do all of this all over again very soon. The cast of characters for the next go-round will be determined at a later date.
Enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts.
Stacey Matthews is a veteran blogger who has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah. She’s a regular contributor to Red State and Legal Insurrection.