CHARLOTTE, NC – President Trump's top adviser demanded credit Wednesday for a Republican's narrow victory in a special House election in North Carolina the night before, even as Democratic and Republican officials said Dan Bishop's two-point win in a district Mr. Trump easily emphasized just how the growing divide between the city and the countryside complicates 2020 for both parties.
Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump's campaign manager, told reporters at a conference call that the presidential rally on Monday night in Fayetteville, NC, was crucial to Mr. Bishop's success in strengthening Election Day after Democrats mobilized many of their supporters to cast early ballots.
Mr. Parscale's victory lap was carried out on behalf of a president who privately mumbled to several aides on Tuesday that he did not receive the credit he deserved for delivering a Republican victory in the closely supervised special election.
And it came with a dose of ribbing for Democrats, who thought their nominee, Dan McCready, a Navy veteran, could get a win in a district. Trump by 12 percentage points in 2016. Bill Stepien, one of Trump's top political advisers, sarcastically congratulated Democrats for a "moral victory" before saying his party would like to take the "actual victory."
[Letthefeelofthepeoplequestionandideas design American politics with our newsletter. ]
But what was, in fact, the last race of the 2018 election – state officials ordered a reconsideration of the race after Republicans were discovered to have funded an illegal voting system in a rural area – was most revealing to demonstrate that the demographic divisions that shaped the middle terms are only growing.
Mr. Bishop, who did not attend the 2018 general election, won in large part as he improved Republican performance in the more populous parts of the sprawling Fayetteville-to-Charlotte district. And Mr. McCready, who was the 2018 Democratic nominee and ran again in the special election, performed even better in the exclusive suburb of Charlotte on Tuesday than he did last November, even though he lost by a larger overall margin.
"The national pattern seems to have played out," said Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College in Salisbury, NC, and added to the county that includes Charlotte: "I really believe the Republicans' collapse in Mecklenburg continues."
These seemingly steadfast trends – the red grows red while the blue turns blue – underscores how difficult it will be for Republicans to recapture the type of metropolitan areas they need to win the majority next year, but the same pattern also illustrates why it will be difficult for Democrats to reintroduce Senate 2020 if they cannot improve their performance with rural voters.
For Trump's results, the North Carolina results amounted to proving he likes stonewalling with his base of working-class white voters – but that a such dedication may not be enough for him to win a second term if he does not can improve his position with suburbs, especially women.
Even as he and his high commanders applauded their success on Wednesday, their morning after glow damage by a new ABC News / Washington Post national survey. The poll showed that Trump with insufficient approval ratings and indicated that if the election were held today, he would lose to a handful of his potential Democratic rivals. Most striking was the test heat between the president and Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Biden led Trump by 55 percent to 40 percent among registered voters, according to the survey.
But it is far from decided who the Democrats will ultimately nominate, and whether they will rally behind a candidate who is aiming for an appeal to moderate voters or someone longer who can motivate progressives in a way that Hillary Clinton failed with many in 2016.
Many leading officials in the party are concerned about what many Republicans expect: that Democrats will come up with a candidate that Trump can portray as out of the political mainstream.
If that happens, it may be repeated in some states by what happened Tuesday in and around Lumberton, NC, on the eastern edge of the district.
Mr. McCready won the surrounding county, Robeson, by more than 15 percentage points in 2018 against Mark Harris, his former Republican opponent. On Tuesday, McCready won the county by only 1.1 percent.
Phillip M. Stephens, president of the Robeson County Republican Party, said the county remained majority Democratic but also very conservative. "Robeson County is a county with some of the last Blue Dog Democrats on this earth," he said.
Mr. Stephens said he thought Mr. Bishop surpassed Mr. Harris in the county because of his relentless and focused messages reminding voters that Mr. McCready supported abortion rights and was in line with a party that had pushed too far left.
doesn't play well with these unaffiliated and these conservative Democrats, "Stephens said. "It plays very well within the Democratic Party, but it doesn't play very well with Robeson County."
Richard Fausset reported from Charlotte and Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman from Washington.