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NC-09-- The Greater Of Two Evils Candidate Wins

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Democratic pollsters showed their Dan winning by a hair. Republican pollsters showed their Dan winning by a hair. And non-partisan pollsters showed the race as too close to call. I had no doggie in this race. The last thing I was looking for was another yellow-bellied Blue Dog who had already announced that if elected he would vote against banning the sales of assault rifles, vote against Medicare-for-All and against the Green New Deal. There was only one thing that could turn out progressives in numbers big enough to make him win-- Trump hatred. (So... keep this factoid in mind from the new Washington Post/ABC News poll from yesterday: Independent voters-- crucial in a district like NC-09-- have turned on Trump. "Trump’s overall approval rating among independents is deeply underwater, with 36 percent approving of his job performance and 58 percent disapproving. That compares with a narrower negative split of 43 percent approval to 54 percent disapproval two months ago." Sensing Bishop-- who dressed identically to Trump on Monday night-- would lose, GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) tried lowering expectations Tuesday morning. Although the NRCC and its allies have poured over $6 million into the race, Scalise called it "a very tough swing district," an odd way to describe a district with a PVI of R+8, where Trump beat Hillary 54.4% to 42.8%. Bishop won anyway, narrowly in a red, gerrymandered district like NC-09.

In the end, it was Republican Dan 96,081 (50.74%) and Blue Dog Dan 92,144 (48.66) with a few votes still to be counted. What it came down to was that Blue Dog Dan's win in Mecklenburg County (55.91%) wasn't big enough to overcome Republican Dan's win in Union County (59.95%).

In the end, it may have been Trump's last minute Monday night rally in Fayetteville that decided the race. The AP noted that Trump-- who brought Pence along too-- was "trying to prove his political clout by pushing" right-wing Republican Dan Bishop while using his divisive rhetorical, painting "a bleak picture of a nation that he claimed would be overrun with crime, poverty and immigrants if Democrats seize power in Washington."

While the stakes for the House are high, Trump's trademark rallies inevitably become more about him than the local candidate, as he uses the stage to settle political scores, sharpen attacks and take on perceived foes. With an eye to his own reelection next fall, he touted his administration's accomplishments but also urged voters to give him more time.
"That's why we need four more years," Trump said at the nearly 90-minute rally. "It's got to seed-- it's a plant. It has to grow. It has to grow those roots. That's why 2020 is just as important. Because they will try to take it away."

Trump's appearance Monday emerged as a test of the president's pull with voters. The special election could offer clues about the mindset of Republicans in the suburbs, whose flight from the party fueled the GOP's 2018 House election losses.

The president enjoys wide popularity within his own party, but a GOP defeat in a red-leaning state could, when combined with a wave of recent bad headlines, portend trouble for his reelection campaign. But before leaving Washington, Trump dismissed questions of whether a poor result for the Republican candidate would serve as a warning sign in next year's elections.

"No, I don't see it as a bellwether," Trump said.

After a light rally schedule of late, the president had plenty of new material to work with.

Chief among them was the White House's worries about the impact an economic downturn could have on a president who has made a strong economy his central argument for a second term. Trump advisers worry that moderate Republican and independent voters who have been willing to give him a pass on some of his incendiary policies and rhetoric would blame him-- and, in particular, his trade war with China-- for slowing down the economy.

Trump offered up a robust defense of the trade war with Beijing. He pushed for Congress to approve his new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal. And he exaggerated the number of miles constructed on his promised border wall.

Trump has increasingly turned to culture-war issues to rev up his core supporters.

He's leveled harsh criticism at majority African American cities, like Baltimore, and delivered repeated broadsides against four liberal Democratic congresswomen of color. Those attacks have been cheered by Trump's advisers, who are bullish on running a campaign critical of Democrats they cast as socialist and unpatriotic.

Monday's rally was held just over 100 miles from the site of a Trump rally in July where "send her back" chants aimed at a Somali-born American congresswoman rattled the Republican Party and seemed to presage an ugly reelection campaign.

The chant was not heard Monday.

Previewing what will surely be his own reelection pitch, Trump repeatedly painted the Democrats as a party that has moved to the extreme left on issues like immigration, abortion and health care.

"You don't have any choice. You have to vote for me," Trump told the crowd. "What are you going to do: Put one of these crazy people running? They are so far left."

"Your way of life is under assault by these people," he claimed.

Trump also notably expressed his support for the Second Amendment against the backdrop of a recent spate of deadly mass shootings. It comes as congressional Democrats push for expanded background checks for gun purchases and as Trump has flip-flopped on the issue amid pressure from the National Rifle Association.

...The district has been held by the GOP since 1963. In 2016, Trump won the district by 11 percentage points. Should Bishop defeat Democrat Dan McCready, it could give Trump room to assert that he pulled Bishop over the top. If McCready prevails or Bishop wins by a whisker, it will suggest GOP erosion and raise questions about Trump's and his party's viability for 2020.

"This will tell us if Trump can carry candidates through suburban districts or not," said Sarah Chamberlain, president of the Republican Main Street Partnership, which represents moderate Republicans. If not, she said, the GOP must "work harder to address the concerns of suburban individuals, mainly women."

CNN's fact-checkers, led by Daniel Dale found at least 22 lies that Trump told during the Monday night rally to his base of morons. Although the election is bering held because the Republican Party was caught stealing the election in November and a bipartisan panel and a court threw out the results, Trump made up nonsense about Democrats stealing elections in California. "A lot of illegal voting going on out there, by the way, a lot of illegal voting," he claimed, a total lie. These were the other 21 lies Trump used in his speech:

China and Trade

China's economy

"I want China to do well and I hope they do well, but they've had now the worst year in 57 years," Trump said.

Facts First: China's official second-quarter GDP growth rate, 6.2%, was the worst since 1992, 27 years ago. Trump correctly cited this "27 years" statistic in July, but he then began changing it for no factual reason. On subsequent occasions, he has said "35 years," "61 years" and "54 years," among other figures.

Trade deficit with China

"China made $500 billion over the last number of years," Trump said.

Facts First: Trump refers to trade deficits as economic losses, and surpluses as gains, though this characterization is rejected by many economists. The US trade deficit with China has never been $500 billion; it was $381 billion last year when counting goods and services, $420 billion when counting goods alone.

Who is paying the tariffs on China

"Hundreds of billions of dollars have been and are coming into our country in the form of tariffs. And China is eating the cost, which the fake news doesn't want to tell you," Trump said.

Facts First: Economic studies have found that Americans shoulder most of the cost of tariffs.

In addition, "hundreds of billions" is an exaggeration, at least when it comes to what has been collected thus far. US Customs and Border Protection reports collecting $41.6 billion from all kinds of duties in the 2018 fiscal year and $34.6 billion in the 2017 fiscal year, and it says $25 billion has been produced by Trump's tariffs on China in particular.

The USMCA and Canada

"We need a vote on the USMCA. That's United States, Mexico and Canada. And they've already voted. They want it," Trump said.

Facts First: Mexico's Senate has voted to ratify the USMCA trade agreement, but Canada's Parliament has not held a vote.

The agreement is highly unlikely to be rejected by Parliament even if Justin Trudeau's Liberal government is ousted in the coming election, since the Conservative opposition party says it will "reluctantly" vote in favor. Still, the voting has not happened yet.

The USMCA and unions

Trump, urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote on the USMCA, said, "The unions want it."

Facts First: American unions generally don't like Trump's North American trade agreement, a revised version of NAFTA. The AFL-CIO, a large labor federation made up of 55 unions, says changes must be made to the agreement before the federation could possibly be supportive; in a Fox News appearance in early September, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka called its present incarnation "an unenforceable trade deal" that would be "a windfall for corporations and a disaster for workers."

As the New York Times has reported, the United Automobile Workers and United Steelworkers, among other unions, have also demanded changes.

Immigration

Democrat Dan McCready

Trump said that the Democratic candidate in the 9th District race, Dan McCready, "wants open borders."

Facts First: McCready does not support open borders. His website says he wants comprehensive immigration reform "that secures our border, respects our laws and protects our American values." He calls for the government to "reinforce physical barriers with the technology Dan used in the Marines, like infrared cameras and drones."

Democrats and borders

Trump said the Democrats refuse to work with him to fix immigration laws "because they want to have open borders."

Facts First: Some Democrats, including presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Julián Castro, have advocated a significant loosening of immigration law, including a decriminalization of the act of illegally crossing the border. But none of them have proposed literally opening the border to unrestricted migration.

During the Trump era, Democrats have voted for billions of dollars' worth of fencing and other border security measures.

Migrants and court

"You have a program, catch and release: you catch them and then you have to release them. And they're supposed to come back to court in the next three, four, five, six years, and nobody shows up," Trump said.

Facts First: While it is unclear what subset of migrants Trump was referring to, the majority of migrants do show up for court. In 2017, 89% of asylum seekers appeared in court to receive decisions on their cases. Among all kinds of migrants, 72% appeared in court.

Immigration laws

"What can be much more threatening than people that want to pour across our borders? And we have the worst laws-- we have the weakest laws in the history of any country. You can't do anything to stop 'em," Trump said.

Facts First: This is obviously inaccurate hyperbole. Current US immigration laws are not even close to the weakest they have been in the history of this country: the US government did not make a broad effort to control the flow of people entering the country until the late 1800s, more than a century after the country's founding.

There are clearly numerous tools at the government's disposal to stop people from illegally entering the country, from physical barriers to Border Patrol apprehensions. Trump frequently complains that asylum seekers must be released and granted a legal process, but that is also the case in other countries.

The border wall

Trump said "we're putting up miles and miles" of the border wall.

Facts First: No new miles of wall had been built during Trump's presidency as of August, Customs and Border Protection told CNN's Geneva Sands. Sixty miles of existing barriers have been replaced.

Overdose deaths and the border

Trump, talking about the opioid crisis and drug smuggling, said, "100,000 people a year die from what comes across our southern border."

Facts First: The "100,000" figure is an exaggeration, though we don't have an exact figure for overdose deaths connected to the southern border. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a preliminary estimate that there were 68,557 drug overdose deaths of any kind in 2018, an estimated 47,590 of them involving any kind of opioid and an estimated 31,897 involving synthetic opioids including fentanyl. It is obviously not true that all of these drugs came from Mexico; Trump himself has repeatedly said that a significant portion of trafficked fentanyl comes through the mail from China.

Economy

Asian unemployment

Trump said Asian Americans are at the best unemployment numbers "we've ever had."

Facts First: The unemployment rate for Asian Americans was 2.8% in August-- higher than the 2.6% rate in December 2016, Barack Obama's last full month in office.

Women's unemployment

Trump said, "The unemployment numbers for women are the best they've been now in 72 years."

Facts First: This was another exaggeration. It has been 66 years since the women's rate has been as low as it has been this year-- it was 3.6% in August, 3.4% in April-- not 75 years.

We might omit this if it were a one-time slip, but Trump habitually exaggerates many positive statistics, including women's unemployment rates, even though the accurate figure is still impressive. In fact, according to our previous fact checking work at the Toronto Star, Trump exaggerated on women's unemployment in this kind of manner 37 times between the inauguration and June 2 of this year.

Manufacturing jobs

"And by the way: 600,000 manufacturing jobs in this country. Remember? 'You would need a magic wand, you can't do that anymore.' Well, we did it," Trump said.

Facts First: The economy has added 485,000 manufacturing jobs since January 2017, when Trump took office, official data shows. The number is 512,000 jobs added if you go back to November 2016, the month of Trump's election.

Trump's "magic wand" comment was a reference to a remark Barack Obama made at a PBS town hall in 2016. Obama scoffed at Trump's promises to bring back what Obama called "jobs of the past" without providing specifics on how he would do so.

Contrary to Trump's frequent claims, though, Obama didn't say manufacturing jobs could not be created at all or created in large numbers; Obama boasted of how many were being created during his presidency, saying, "We actually make more stuff, have a bigger manufacturing base today than we've had in most of our history."

Accomplishments

Right to Try

"They've been trying to get this for 45 years," Trump said of the program that seeks to make it easier for terminally ill patients to access experimental medications.

Facts First: There had not been a 45-year push for a federal Right to Try law, experts said. Similar laws have been passed at the state level only since 2014, after the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank, began pushing for them.

Veterans Choice

Trump took credit for passing the Veterans Choice program that allows some veterans to be reimbursed for seeing doctors outside the VA system: "We passed something that they've wanted to do for half a century. We passed VA Choice."

Facts First: The Choice program, a bipartisan initiative led by Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain, was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2014. In 2018, Trump signed the VA Mission Act, which expanded and changed the program.

Energy production

"We ended the last administration's cruel war on American energy. The United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world," Trump said.

Facts First: The US has not just "now" become the world's top energy producer: it took the top spot in 2012, under Obama, the very president he accused of perpetrating the "war."

"The United States has been the world's top producer of natural gas since 2009, when US natural gas production surpassed that of Russia, and it has been the world's top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013, when its production exceeded Saudi Arabia's," the Energy Information Administration says.

Pre-existing conditions

"We'll always protect patients with pre-existing conditions, always," Trump said.

Facts First: We usually don't fact-check promises, but this one has already proved untrue. The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forward bills and lawsuits that would weaken Obamacare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Trump is currently supporting a Republican lawsuit that is seeking to declare all of Obamacare void. He has not issued a plan to reinstate the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions if the suit succeeds.

The decline in overdose deaths

"Last year we saw the first nationwide decline in drug overdose deaths in nearly 31 years," Trump said.

Facts First: This was another of Trump's regular exaggerations of numbers that are already impressive. There was a rare decline in overdose deaths in 2018, according to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics-- but it was the first in since 1990, or 28 years ago, not "nearly 31 years" ago.

Foreign affairs

Payments to Iran

Trump claimed that the US "paid" Iran "$150 billion" as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Facts First: The money in question was Iranian money frozen in foreign financial institutions because of sanctions, not US government money-- and experts say the total was significantly lower than $150 billion. You can read a fuller fact check here.

NATO spending

Trump said that, "until President Trump," military spending by non-US NATO members was declining. "The NATO cost of-- spending was going like this," he said, moving his hand in a downward sloping motion.

Facts First: Military spending by NATO members had increased for two years prior to Trump's presidency. According to official NATO figures, spending increased by 1.8% in 2015 and 2.8% in 2016, before Trump took office.

Trump-era increases have been bigger-- 6% in 2017 and an estimated 3.8% in 2018-- and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has credited Trump for his role in prompting the increase. But the upward trend started two years before Trump's tenure began.

In 2014, NATO countries who were not yet meeting the alliance guideline of spending 2% of their Gross Domestic Product on defense re-committed to meeting the target. Spending began rising after that.

Source: 
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