FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — President Donald Trump is taking credit for turning around a faltering Republican congressional candidate and hoisting him to victory in a North Carolina special election.
Trump wrote on Twitter late Tuesday that Dan Bishop was down by 17 points three weeks ago, but after the 9th Congressional District candidate asked Trump for help, "we changed his strategy together."
There's no evidence from public polling that Bishop ever trailed Democrat Dan McCready by such a large margin. Private polls and campaign consultants had described the race as very close. Bishop's victory margin was about 2% with nearly all precincts reporting.
The race was seen as a measure of popularity for Trump, who campaigned for Bishop on Monday in Fayetteville. The 9th Congressional District has been held by Republicans since 1963.
Bishop’s winning margin was far less than the 11 percentage points by which Trump captured the district in 2016. And it was only slightly greater than when then-GOP candidate Mark Harris seemed to win the seat over McCready, 36, last year - before those results were annulled after evidence surfaced of vote tampering.
The 55-year-old Bishop is a state senator best known for sponsoring a 2016 state law that blocked local anti-discrimination rules protecting LGBT residents. The law was repealed after it prompted a national outcry and boycotts that The Associated Press estimated cost North Carolina $3.7 billion.
Bishop, who didn't run in last year's election, said in his victory speech: "The voters said no to radical, liberal polices pushed by today’s Democratic Party."
In the day’s other special election, Republican Greg Murphy, a doctor and state legislator, defeated Democrat Allen Thomas — as expected — to keep a House district along North Carolina’s Atlantic coast.
That seat has been vacant since February, when 13-term GOP Rep. Walter Jones died, and Trump won the district handily in 2016.
Along with a GOP victory in a second vacant House district in North Carolina, Republicans pared the Democratic majority in the House to 235-199, plus one independent. That means to win control of the chamber in 2020, Republicans will need to gain 19 seats, which a slew of GOP retirements and demographic changes around the country suggests will be difficult.