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Tuesday's special election in North Carolina could reveal clues about 2020

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
North Carolina's 9th District, Dan Bishop
Dan Bishop, Republican candidate for North Carolina's 9th District, talks with supporters at Robin's On Main diner in Hope Mills on Aug. 10, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The last congressional race of 2018 is Tuesday’s do-over in North Carolina’s Ninth District – after the state discarded November’s results due to illegal ballot-tampering/harvesting.

This NC-9 special election between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Dan Bishop could let us know if the political winds are still blowing in the same direction they were last November, when Democrats ended up flipping 40 House seats and winning control of the chamber.

Or it could reveal if those winds have changed.

A win by Bishop and the GOP — in a district that President Trump won by 12 points in 2016 — would keep the Republicans’ magic number of winning back the House next year at 18 seats.

Still, even a narrow Republican win should be a cause of concern, a la the special elections of 2018, since the Cook Political Report identifies more than 30 GOP-held House seats being less Republican leaning in nature than NC-9.

Dan McCready, Democratic candidate for North Carolina's 9th District, talks with voters at his campaign office in Elizabethtown Aug. 10, 2019. \
Dan McCready, Democratic candidate for North Carolina's 9th District, talks with voters at his campaign office in Elizabethtown Aug. 10, 2019. \Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call via AP

But a win by McCready and the Democrats – and observers view the contest as a coin flip — would not only raise the GOP’s magic number to 19 seats for 2020; it would also be a disastrous sign for Republicans.

Especially in a presidential battleground state like North Carolina, which also will host competitive Senate and gubernatorial contests in 2020.

And guess who’s headed to campaign for Bishop tonight — President Trump, who holds a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., at 7:00 pm ET after inspecting damage from Hurricane Dorian in the state.

Data Download: The number of the day is … $294,000


That’s the ad-spending advantage that Democrats enjoy over Republicans in the NC-9 special general election.

Overall, Dems have spent $6,845,359 over the TV and radio airwaves, per data from Advertising Analytics, while Republicans have spent $6,551,704.

But the McCready campaign has a 3-to-1 ad-spending edge over the Bishop campaign, $3.2 million to $1.1 million – which is consistent with what we saw in 2018.

Outside groups like the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund have propped up the GOP side.

Here are the top advertisers in NC-9:

  • McCready (D): $3.2 million
  • NRCC (R): $2.5 million
  • Congressional Leadership Fund (R): $2.0 million
  • DCCC (D): $1.3 million
  • Bishop (R): $1.1 million
  • House Majority Forward (D): $1.0 million

Sanford to challenge Trump in GOP primary — as South Carolina scraps its nominating contest

Former South Carolina Gov. and Congressman Mark Sanford said he’ll be jumping into the 2020 Republican presidential race, joining former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., who have already announced bids to challenge Trump next year.

But this comes after the South Carolina Republican Party’s executive committee voted to forgo its presidential primary next year – and Nevada, Kansas and Arizona have done/signaled the same. (We’re old enough to remember when Trump was the one complaining about rigged Democratic primaries…)

And this morning, Trump tweeted about Sanford joining the race:

Pompeo dodges questions about possible Senate run

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certainly didn’t rule out a Kansas Senate bid for 2020. Check out the exchange on “Meet the Press” yesterday:

Chuck Todd: "So, okay, you could do the Sherman-esque deal. You could say, 'If nominated, I will not serve,' all of that business. You have not done that. Why?"

Pompeo: "I've been pretty clear, Chuck. I think it's unambiguous. Others want to speculate on my future a lot more than I do. As you can see from today, I'm incredibly focused on what I'm doing. It's not just Hong Kong and Afghanistan. We've got opportunities all across the world. That's what I'm focused on. And I intend to continue to do that so long as ... President Trump asks me to be his secretary of state, this is what I intend to do."

Todd: "You will not be on a ballot November of 2020?"

Pompeo: "This is what I'm going to do."

Todd: "You will not be on a ballot?"

Pompeo: "As long as President Trump wants me to be his secretary of state."

2020 Vision: Polls galore

Over the weekend, we got the results of several new polls.

The national Washington Post/ABC poll among registered voters: Joe Biden 29 percent, Bernie Sanders 19 percent, Elizabeth Warren 18 percent, Kamala Harris 7 percent, Pete Buttigieg 4 percent, Beto O’Rourke 3 percent, Andrew Yang 3 percent, Tulsi Gabbard 2 percent and Amy Klobuchar 2 percent.

The CBS/YouGov poll of Iowa: Biden 29 percent, Sanders 26 percent, Warren 17 percent, Buttigieg 7 percent and Harris 6 percent.

The CBS/YouGov poll of New Hampshire: Warren 27 percent, Biden 26 percent, Sanders 25 percent, Buttgieg 8 percent, Harris 7 percent.

The CBS/YouGov poll of Nevada: Sanders 29 percent, Biden 27 percent, Warren 18 percent, Harris 6 percent and Buttigieg 4 percent.

The CBS/YouGov poll of South Carolina: Biden 43 percent, Sanders 18 percent, Warren 14 percent, Harris 7 percent and Buttigieg 4 percent.

By the way, it looks like Tom Steyer has qualified for October’s Dem debates after hitting 2 percent in the CBS/YouGov poll of Nevada.

On the campaign trail today

Bernie Sanders stumps in Iowa before heading to Denver for an 8:00 pm ET rally there… Julian Castro holds a rally in Houston… Joe Sestak is in Massachusetts and New Hampshire… And President Trump holds his rally in that NC-9 race at 7:00 pm ET.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

NBC’s Julia Jester and Amanda Golden sum up their most memorable observations from the 2020 candidate speeches at the New Hampshire state convention on Saturday:

Elizabeth Warren’s show of force both outside the arena and inside ahead of her speech – before which her campaign distributed “Win with Warren” thundersticks to the crowd – reflected her strong level of organization here on the ground. But the senator herself inspired a nearly two-minute standing ovation welcome and multiple big applause lines during her speech.

Cory Booker impressed the crowd, earning a roaring reception with multiple standing ovations from the high-energy crowd – if any candidate gets a bump from their convention performance, Booker just might be the one.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: Mmmm, this is a tasty burger

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we took a look at all of those cheeseburger-climate questions at CNN’s town halls last Wednesday – and noted which 2020 candidates had the better answer.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Here's what we know about the timeline of that scrapped secret Taliban meeting.

Freshmen Democrats who are holding out on impeachment are facing more and more pressure.

Kamala Harris is out with a new criminal justice plan.

A new Washington Post-ABC poll finds overwhelming support for new background check and 'red flag' laws.

Boris Johnson is struggling to hold on to power as yet more lawmakers call it quits.

Trump Agenda: Scotland stopover

The Air Force is reviewing crew layovers at Trump's hotel in Scotland.

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot is still taking on Ted Cruz over his comments about gun violence in the city.

Asylum applicants are heading to Mexico for shelter as the Trump administration continues to tighten laws at the border.

POLITICO Magazine has a big investigative piece about Jerry Falwell Jr.

2020: Planning on an implosion

Joe Biden's rivals are all planning on one thing: An implosion.

The New York Times notes that Elizabeth Warren hasn't always eschewed wealthy fundraisers.