Sep 10, 2019

N.C.'s House special election shows Democrats are still running on health care

Congressional candidate Dan McCready shakes a voter's hand last month. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Today's special election in North Carolina for a House seat is ostensibly the first big test of 2020 — but its messaging is straight out of 2018.

Driving the news: Democrat Dan McCready has made health care — and drug prices, specifically — a centerpiece of his advertising and broader pitch to voters as he tries to turn a red district blue.

What we're seeing:

  • The McCready campaign has run two ads devoted to drug prices, both of which attack GOP candidate Dan Bishop for voting against a bill to let pharmacists tell patients about cheaper drugs.
  • House Democrats' campaign arm came in with two more ads on the same theme (including a somewhat bizarre ad casting Bishop as a superhero for pharma).
  • Even the Environmental Defense Fund — not usually the biggest player in health care fights — echoed the same attack in an anti-Bishop attack ad.

Thought bubble: This race is about a lot more than just health care. It's a redo from 2018; it's a district Trump won big; and Trump himself campaigned for Bishop last night.

  • But McCready's decision to focus so intensely on health care reinforces that Democrats still see this as their best line of attack in competitive races, and that the national debate over "Medicare for All" isn't scaring them away from more moderate messages on health care.

And if McCready wins, it'll be a sign that strategy does still seem to work, or at least to help.

Go deeper: Trump makes last-ditch North Carolina election push for GOP candidate

Go deeper

What the North Carolina special election means for 2020

Campaign signs for McCready and Bishop in Waxhaw, North Carolina, Sept. 10. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Republican Dan Bishop will represent North Carolina’s 9th District in Congress after narrowly winning Tuesday's special election. It was a surprisingly tight race in a district that President Trump carried by 12 points in 2016, per Politico.

The big picture: Bishop's win against McCready, a centrist who ultimately raised more money than his Republican counterpart, could be an optimistic sign for the GOP as they eye taking back the House in 2020. However, Bishop only won by 2 percentage points in a district that hasn’t been held by Democrats since 1963, the New York Times notes.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Sep 11, 2019

Trump makes last-ditch North Carolina election push for GOP candidate

President Trump at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Monday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump made a rallying cry during a campaign event in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in support of Republican candidate Dan Bishop ahead of a crucial special election in the state's 9th Congressional District.

Why it matters: Per the Washington Post, the election could be a bellwether for the president’s political fortunes in 2020. While the N.C. district has long been in Republican hands, recent polling has shown Democrat Dan McCready is within striking distance of Bishop, the WashPost notes.

Go deeperArrowSep 10, 2019

Health care dominates 2019 ad spending

Data: Advertising Analytics; Chart: Axios Visuals

More than half of all issue advertising this year has been on health care, and that spending will only increase as the 2020 campaign gets closer.

Between the lines: Most of the top health care spenders are focused on issues like surprise medical bills and drug prices — many of which would cut into the health care industry's profits.

Go deeperArrowSep 11, 2019