Trump holds a rally in North Carolina ahead of a close congressional special election

  • President Donald Trump held a rally in North Carolina on Tuesday on the eve of a special election in a traditionally Republican district that is being closely watched for clues of what might lie ahead for the president in 2020.

  • The special election in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District was called after credible allegations of ballot fraud were lobbed against former Republican candidate Mark Harris' campaign, and the 2018 midterm result was never certified.

  • In the special election, Democrat Dan McCready is running against Republican challenger Dan Bishop, who has already received support from Trump.

  • Recent polls show the two candidates polling closely to one another, paving the way for a Democrat to possibly win the district for the first time in decades.

  • Here's why there's so much interest in this race, and what it could mean for Trump's 2020 prospects.

President Donald Trump campaigned for Republican candidate Dan Bishop on Monday night in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on the eve of a hotly contested special election that could foreshadow his own political success in 2020.

Trump told crowds of supporters at a GOP rally that the impending special election for the state's 9th Congressional District would be a matchup against the "America-hating left" who he described as seeking to "dismantle, demolish and destroy everything that you've gained."

The president has also appeared in Bishop's campaign ads, saying the candidate who helped craft the state's controversial "Bathroom Bill" will be a "great congressman" who will "defend your values."

Trump's visit to the traditionally reliable Republican district signals a sense of nervousness ahead of the do-over race that shows both candidates polling closely to one another.

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Here's why there's so much interest in this race, and what it could mean for Trump's 2020 prospects.

When is the special election?

The special election is being held on Tuesday, September 10, 2019.

Who is running and where is the district?

The election will see established Republican Dan Bishop face off against the Democratic candidate, former US Marine and businessman Dan McCready. Bishop has tried to pin himself as the candidate most supportive of Trump on issues like gun ownership and illegal immigration, while McCready has tried to peg himself as a more moderate Democrat, campaigning on a platform of protecting the Affordable Care Act, cutting taxes, and scaling back military intervention overseas.

The 9th Congressional District is traditionally conservative and spans east from Charlotte along the South Carolina border. The district's boundaries were redrawn in February 2016 after a US district court found that the state had been gerrymandered along racial lines. It now includes the counties of Union, Anson, Richmond, Scotland, Robeson, and portions of Mecklenburg, Cumberland, and Bladen.

Republicans have represented this district since 1963.

Why is this taking place?

The race will determine who fills a vacancy left in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, the last undecided contest from the 2018 midterm elections.

In last year's election, McCready faced Republican challenger and evangelical pastor Mark Harris and narrowly fell behind Harris by just 905 votes. Following the election, the State Board of Elections ordered an investigation into one of Harris' campaign aide Leslie McCrae Dowless, who was indicted on criminal charges of ballot fraud and obstruction of justice in an elaborate absentee-ballot scheme. The board never certified Harris as the winner.

In February, the board called for new elections. Harris, who reportedly sought out help from Dowless despite warnings that the aide may have done some dubious work for another Republican candidate in a former campaign, dropped out of the race, citing health concerns.

In March, Bishop won the 9th District Republican Primary, leaving him to face off against a battle-ready McCready.

What does this say about 2020?

The results of Tuesday's election may foretell what lies ahead for Republicans as they approach the 2020 election — which includes not only a presidential election, but races for 35 US Senate seats and all members of the House of Representatives.

Trump easily swiped the traditionally conservative 9th district during the 2016 elections, winning by a margin of 12 points.

The 2018 midterm House race, however, was far closer.

Republicans, including President Trump, have been pushing an inflammatory campaign against progressive Democrats in an attempt to portray the party as radical and anti-American in the leadup to the elections.

But some suburban and independent voters in the state have been increasingly put off by Trump's divisive rhetoric, which could see residents shift away from candidates with strong presidential support.

If a Democrat wins the district for the first time in decades, it could serve as a wider reflection of the changing political sentiments in North Carolina and serve as a major blow by Trump's seemingly loyal base ahead of the 2020 election.