- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2019

President Trump said “jobs have never been better” as he stumped for a Republican House candidate — and himself — in the critical swing state of North Carolina on Monday, imploring voters to ignore lousy headlines on his trade war and keep faith in his agenda.

He also focused on his trademark issue — illegal immigration — in bolstering Dan Bishop on the eve of a special election for an open seat in Congress. Efforts to build a border wall and combat “sanctuary” policies will suffer unless the 9th Congressional District sends another GOP member to Washington, he said.

“Get your votes in early,” Mr. Trump told the crowd at the Crown Expo Center in Fayetteville. “You’ll get out to protect your family.”

Mr. Trump said the U.S. still has the best economy in the world, despite murmurs of a possible recession and fears that tariffs on Chinese goods will hurt American consumers.

“They tried the Russia thing, that didn’t work. They tried many other things,” Mr. Trump said in a riff against Democrats and the media.



Mr. Trump said he won’t back down in his fight against China, saying it needs to be done.

He pledged to protect the Second Amendment, as Congress debates whether to tighten gun laws, and frequently pivoted to border security in promoting Mr. Bishop, saying no one wants illegal immigrants “roaming free” in North Carolina.

“Mr. President, we’re not tired of winning,” Mr. Bishop said from the stage. “We want to keep on winning.”

Mr. Bishop, a state senator, mimicked Mr. Trump’s attack lines, castigating the “dishonest media” and lambasting “socialist” Democrats.

The candidate’s remarks were interrupted for several minutes by a rally-goer who needed medical attention.

“I guess Dan’s speech wasn’t so good,” Mr. Trump said.

Beyond Mr. Bishop, the president said he backs Republican Greg Murphy in Tuesday’s election to replace the late Rep. Walter Jones in the 3rd Congressional District.

North Carolina is among six top-tier states that Mr. Trump won in 2016 — and that surrogates view as pivotal to his reelection hopes in 2020. The others are Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Trump was unable to tour Hurricane Dorian damage on the Carolina coast, as scheduled, ahead of the rally because of more bad weather, though he received a briefing aboard Air Force One and praised the state’s toughness from the stage.

“North Carolina will truly recover so fast, I know you people so well. Let’s not even talk about it,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump took swipes at his predecessor and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who is leading the 2020 Democratic primary field. He said the Obama administration’s trade policies, alone, were a “catastrophe” and an ad for his reelection.

“You could have kissed many of your industries goodbye,” Mr. Trump said.

He also said his Democratic rivals would give health coverage to illegal immigrants, while taking away private health coverage from citizens. The president insisted the GOP can come up with a better health plan, despite its high-profile failure to do so with congressional majorities in 2017.

“We’re gonna end up with a better plan, you watch,” Mr. Trump said.

The president’s immediate task is giving Mr. Bishop an edge over Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th District, which spans eastward from Charlotte into counties along the South Carolina border.

“Tomorrow you will head to the polls to elect a congressman who always puts America first, Dan Bishop,” Mr. Trump said.

Tuesday’s special election was called after the 2018 edition was tainted by accusations of fraud by a GOP operative. State officials invalidated results that had Republican Mark Harris leading Mr. McCready by about 900 votes.

Mr. Trump won this district by 11 percentage points on the way to gobbling up the Tarheel State’s 15 electoral votes in 2016, so a GOP loss would be a black eye for the president.

On the flip side, a Bishop victory would allow Mr. Trump to crow about his influence, after the GOP forfeited the House majority last year.

“The president doesn’t want to deal with another House seat loss and the invariable bad publicity such an outcome would bring, and to the extent his rallies can help, his presence could bring some extra attention to a race where turnout is going to be below that of the midterm,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Whether that attention actually helps Bishop is hard to quantify.”

Mr. Kondik said the race appears to be a true tossup, with polls generally mixed on who is leading.

“The margin seems likely to be close, which given that NC-9 is a Republican-leaning district, gives the Democrats better grounds on which to declare a moral victory if they fall short than Republicans” would have, Mr. Kondik said.

Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to a pro-Bishop call center in Charlotte on Monday and even dialed a few potential voters himself.

“It’s all about turnout,” Mr. Pence told callers, urging them to keep dialing. “Elections are won by the people that show up.”

Later Monday, Mr. Pence ate with Mr. Bishop at Rock Store BBQ in Marshville, North Carolina.

The vice president received a warm welcome from diners and owner Don Stegall, who called Mr. Pence the most famous guest he’d ever served, though fans of professional wrestling might dissent on that point.

“We’d only had Ric Flair before,” he said.

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