“But he could have lost.”
Conservative Republican Dan Bishop won a special election for an open House seat in North Carolina, averting a demoralizing Democratic capture of a district the GOP has held for nearly six decades. But his narrow victory didn’t erase questions about whether President Donald Trump and his party’s congressional candidates face troubling headwinds approaching 2020.
Bishop, a state senator best known for a North Carolina law dictating which public bathrooms transgender people can use, defeated centrist Democrat Dan McCready on Tuesday. Bishop tied himself tightly to Trump, who staged an election eve rally for him in the district, and Tuesday’s voting seemed no less than a referendum on the Republican president, who quickly took credit for the triumph.
President Trump, commenting on the victory, said “Dan Bishop was down 17 points 3 weeks ago. He then asked me for help, we changed his strategy together, and he ran a great race.”
But notwithstanding the Republican victory – and the Democratic defeat – Democrat leadership invoked the Stacy Abrams’ approach, claiming progress.
For example, Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, who runs House Democrats’ political committee, said the close race showed her party is “pushing further into Republican strongholds” and was in a “commanding position” to do well next year.
Michael Bitzer, a politics professor at Catawba College in North Carolina, said the narrow margin suggests that the country’s other closely divided swing districts “could be still up for grabs. There is almost no pathway to Republicans regaining House control next year unless they avoid losing more suburban districts and win back some they lost last year. Sure, the Republicans won last night, but the important thing to remember is that they could have lost.”