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What the final race of 2018 might tell us 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.
Image: Dan McCready, Democratic candidate for North Carolina's 9th District, talks with voters outside of the First United Methodist Church during his education tour in Pembroke, N.C.
Dan McCready, Democratic candidate for North Carolina's 9th District, talks with voters outside of the First United Methodist Church during his education tour in Pembroke, N.C., on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call,Inc. file

WASHINGTON — What the final race of 2018 might tell us about 2020: What’s striking about next month’s very competitive special congressional election in North Carolina is how it’s sticking to the 2018 playbook.

And how it’s departed from what we’re seeing play out in the 2020 Democratic presidential race.

In the state's ninth district contest — which Trump won by 12 points in 2016 — Democrat Dan McCready has emphasized his military experience, and his party has blasted GOP opponent Dan Bishop on pre-existing conditions.

Meanwhile, Bishop and the GOP have fired back at McCready on illegal immigration, the wall and “open borders” — while tying him to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “The Squad.”

Sounds a lot like October 2018, right?

But what’s interesting is how McCready, in particular, is running a very different race from what we’re seeing in the 2020 presidential race, as much of the White House field veers to the left on health care (eliminating private insurance) and immigration (decriminalizing illegal border crossings, providing health insurance to undocumented immigrants).

And the outcome of this Sept. 10 race — observers view it as a coin flip — could be instructive on what plays better for Democrats in purple/red states and districts.

Remember, this NC-9 special is a re-do of sorts, after Republican Mark Harris edged out McCready by fewer than 1,000 votes last November. But the state threw out the election after uncovering allegations of ballot-tampering.

Rumor has it

We don’t get it. Why would former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley decry “false rumors” — when no news organizations or reporters are talking about any rumor?

“Enough of the false rumors. Vice President Pence has been a dear friend of mine for years. He has been a loyal and trustworthy VP to the President. He has my complete support,” Haley tweeted yesterday.

She denied something that wasn't a story, thereby making it one.

2020 Vision: Jay Inslee is outslee of White House race

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Wednesday night that he’s exiting the Democratic presidential race.

And NBC’s Ali Vitali reports that Inslee intends to email supporters that he’ll run for a third term as governor next year.

"It's become clear that I'm not going to be carrying the ball. I'm not going to be the president, so I'm withdrawing tonight from the race," he told Maddow. "I've been fighting climate change for 25 years, and I've never been so confident of the ability of America now to reach critical mass to move the ball."

Meanwhile, John Hickenlooper — who also recently exited the White House contest — says he’s challenging GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado’s Senate race.

On the campaign trail today

Beto O’Rourke holds a roundtable on gun violence in Des Moines… Cory Booker, in Los Angeles, also discusses gun violence… Bernie Sanders stumps in California, touring wildfire damage in Paradise, holding a town hall on climate change in Chico and conducting a rally in Sacramento… Amy Klobuchar attends the Minnesota State Fair… Tim Ryan and John Delaney are in New Hampshire… Pete Buttigieg raises money in Maine… And Elizabeth Warren speaks at a DNC gala in San Francisco.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

At a stop in Iowa yesterday, Joe Biden addressed Sen. Cory Booker’s not-so-subtle jab at Biden when he said that voters shouldn’t be going with just a safe bet candidate. NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor reports his response, “I don't think anybody's safe bet, look there's gotta be here, look this is a marathon – there's a long, long way to go, okay. I think they should pick somebody that they think can win, change the nature of the direction of the country, and decide who's ready one day one to be president and that's a long way off.”

Beto O’Rourke also was in Iowa, where he was asked about electability. O’Rourke responded, per NBC’s Priscilla Thompson: “No one knows who's electable right now. It is very rare that in the summer before a presidential election year that the frontrunner is going to be the nominee or the new one has a clear idea of what the turnout in the Iowa caucus will be.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 501,000

That’s the number of fewer jobs the U.S. economy created in 2018-2019 – after the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised its job-creation statistics.

“The newly revised figures indicate the economy didn’t get a huge boost last year from President Trump’s tax cuts and higher federal spending. They also signal the economy is a bit weaker than previously believed and could give the Federal Reserve even greater reason to cut interest rates in September,” per MarketWatch.

The Lid: Call your mother

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at the battle for suburban female voters.

ICYMI: New clips you shouldn’t miss

A new CBO report finds that the federal deficit is set to increase by $800 billion over the next decade.

The New York Times profiles Stephanie Grisham.

Bernie Sanders is unveiling a sweeping new climate change plan. (And he’s making changes to how Medicare for All would treat union contracts.)

Could Trump turn Minnesota red?

We’re learning more about what the Sept. 12 ABC News debate will be like.

Trump Agenda: How buying Greenland became a thing

The New York Times traces how buying Greenland became a thing.

Migrant children would face more serious health risks because of longer detentions, experts warn.

March for Our Lives is out with a new gun legislation proposal.

The Washington Post writes that Trump is frustrated at his unpopularity with Jewish voters.

The White House is looking at a new project to identify early signs of mental illness that could lead to violence.

Trump suggested, to laughter, that he tried to give himself the Medal of Honor.

2020: RNC outraises DNC — again

The RNC outraised the DNC in July.

Pete Buttigieg’s latest ad buy is aimed at college students.

Democrats are ramping up their campaigns for secretary of state in five statewide races.

Sanders and Harris are on a collision course in California.

POLITICO has a deep dive into the Andrew Yang phenomenon.