Back to the future! In what is likely, and certainly feels like, the longest congressional election ever, the voters of the 9th District are going to the polls.
If you’re interested in digging into the numbers, as always Prof. Michael Bitzer from Old North State Politics is crunching the early vote data and formatting it in a very digestible way.
Every poll released over the course of the campaign shows Dan Bishop(R)and Dan McCready(D)in a dead heat. Each Dan takes about 46% of the vote, with 8% of voters undecided. In a race that President Trump won by 11 points, the Democrat is on even ground with the Republican.
Irrespective of outcome, it portends the difficulty Republicans may have in maintaining suburban districts that saw the loss of many moderates in their caucus last year.
The pollster noted that McCready is running very competitively in a district Republicans have held onto since the Kennedy administration.
At a time where the Democrats as a party are taking stock of whether to moderate or liberalize, the race in the 9th District offers a bit of a case study for Southern Democrats. With the gerrymandered districts in North Carolina — though the NC courts may soon rectify that — Democrats are resigned to three districts where the incumbents have practically zero chance of losing to anyone but a primary opponent.
Naturally, the lack of competition in the gerrymandered districts means fewer qualified folks will consider running for office. In ten of our thirteen districts, Mother Teresa herself would lose in a rout if she ran as a Democrat. Elections come down to simple binary choices about party affiliation, not relative qualifications and credentials.
So again, the 9th District offers Democrats a chance to test the electability of a moderate, veteran, businessman in a district spanning the suburbs of Charlotte down the southern border to Fayetteville. McCready lost by a thin margin in 2018, but the race was tainted by fraud. Democrats will have to redouble their efforts in the next two weeks to either outperform last election or convert voters that may have been turned off by 1) the fraud or 2) the president.
So far, Republican numbers in absentee voting has lagged behind 2018 and Democratic numbers have outperformed:
McCready would probably prefer the focus of the race be health care, and prescription drug costs, as opposed to the president, who won the district easily. But it will be hard to avoid the spectacle of Donald Trump when he holds a rally September 9th in Fayetteville.
Kirk Kovach is a native North Carolinian interested in writing about politics, communication and culture.