OPINION — Republicans’ special election victory Tuesday in North Carolina’s 9th District is the latest evidence that 2020 will be a very different election from 2018.
Rep.-elect Dan Bishop didn’t just overcome his Democrat opponent’s two-year head start and millions of dollars in out-of-state money. He also outperformed the GOP candidate’s 2018 efforts by 2 points — quite a different narrative from what the cable news pundits want voters to believe and great news for Republican prospects next year.
House Republicans are now 3-0 in special elections this cycle and, in all three races, the GOP nominee outperformed the 2018 result. In Pennsylvania’s 12th and North Carolina’s 3rd districts, Republicans even outperformed President Donald Trump’s 2016 numbers.
Our current GOP strategy is focused on two truths that spell disaster for Democratic prospects in 2020. First, House Democrats’ socialist agenda is wildly unpopular with voters and will be an anchor around the necks of their candidates in swing districts. Second, President Trump is the single most effective surrogate and turnout machine for the Republican Party.
Republicans came into the special election in North Carolina’s 9th with a unified message: Dan McCready, the Democratic nominee, was a political insider who supported Washington Democrats’ socialist agenda. This narrative was amplified by complementary messaging from the Bishop campaign, the National Republican Congressional Committee and conservative outside groups. This successful message discipline increased the effectiveness of the overall effort and provides a powerful roadmap for how Republicans can create compelling narratives in 2020 races.
Effective messaging was made even more powerful by the efficient use of resources. The NRCC booked our entire TV budget upfront, leading to substantial savings on ad rates and making each dollar go further. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not follow our lead, which caused it to pay significantly more to place its TV buys.
While McCready came into this race with a significant head start and cash advantage, Bishop was able to cut into that lead through smart digital fundraising. The Bishop campaign was among the first to join the WinRed platform and worked hand-in-hand with the NRCC to maximize its small-dollar, digital fundraising operation.
North Carolina’s 9th was the first test case for WinRed, and it was a total success, as Bishop was able to capitalize on President Trump’s army of small-dollar donors to raise a large amount of money in a very short time span.
But perhaps our most important weapon in this fight was President Trump himself.
One of the biggest challenges in a special election is informing voters that the election is actually happening and then getting them out to the polls. President Trump was instrumental in this effort. His election eve rally generated invaluable earned media across all platforms, letting his supporters know how important it was for them to turn out on Tuesday. That turnout boost was vital and helped Bishop across the finish line.
With Democrats defending 31 districts that President Trump won in 2016, the president will continue to be a major asset heading into 2020.
Republicans in North Carolina and Washington knew this special election would be a challenge from the start. But unlike last cycle, the entire Republican ecosystem, from President Trump down to the grassroots, worked in tandem to help Dan Bishop win.
President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, House Republican leadership, the NRCC, the Republican National Committee, the North Carolina Republican Party, the Bishop campaign and conservative outside groups showed exactly why House Democrats’ days in the majority are numbered. We look forward to building on this momentum and applying the lessons we’ve learned to hold Democrats accountable and win in 2020.
Rep. Tom Emmer is the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He is currently in his third term representing Minnesota’s 6th District.