Last month, the Cook Political Report moved NC-09 up in its rankings of competitive Congressional districts. Now, the district is considered “Lean Republican” instead of “Likely Republican.” The shift assumes that Dan McCready will be the Democratic nominee. If he’s not, the district will fall back to safe Republican.
McCready launched his campaign a year ago and has proven his ability to both raise money and put together an organization. He fits the district, too. His background in finance suits the country clubbers who make up southeast Charlotte and western Union County, while his standing as an Iraq War vet appeals to the patriotic voters in the rural counties that surround Fort Bragg.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, incumbent Robert Pittenger and his opponent, Mark Harris, are busy wrapping themselves around Donald Trump. Polls show Pittenger in the lead, but his embrace of Trumpism may hurt him with the button-down suburbanites he needs to win. If Harris manages to pull off an upset, he’s probably too conservative to win in a general election.
McCready’s primary opponent, Christian Cano, has been relentlessly attacking McCready on social media and in forums. According to Cano, McCready hasn’t passed enough Democratic litmus tests and he’s a “DINO.” Cano called McCready a “coward” and says he considers McCready a Republican.
Cano’s a small tent Democrat, a guy who believes that only people who think just like him deserve consideration. He believes there’s a big enough Democratic base to overcome the conservative nature of the district. He couldn’t be more wrong.
To win in districts like NC-09, Democrats need to win back Democratic voters and conservative-leaning independents in the rural counties who have been voting Republican for years and they need to win business conservatives in southeast Charlotte and western Union County where almost half the voters reside. McCready has a shot at both those sets of voters. Cano, with his dogmatic approach to politics, couldn’t reach either even if he raised enough money to communicate with them.
Cano represents a threat to the blue wave he likes to hashtag. If Democrats stay home in November because the Democratic nominee doesn’t check enough boxes, then Republicans will likely keep their majority in Congress. If Democrats rebuild the big tent they had when they held the majority, they might get there again.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com, a website of commentary and analysis. Originally published at politicsnc.com.