Fayetteville, North Carolina — President Trump took the stage here in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District on Monday ahead of a special election to throw his support behind Republican candidates Dan Bishop and Greg Murphy, who's running in the state's 3rd District.
Bishop will face Democrat Dan McCready on Tuesday in the high-profile special election, which was ordered afterwas discovered in the 2018 election. The race has become a test case for national Democratic and Republican observers looking for clues to guide their messaging in 2020 campaigns.
"A vote for any Democrat in 2020, and a vote for any Democrat tomorrow is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream," Mr. Trump told the crowd. "Our first task is a giant victory tomorrow right here in the great state of North Carolina."
The president invited both Bishop and Murphy to speak to raise awareness about the election and help boost turnout in an off-year election.
Mr. Trump focused heavily on North Carolina in his speech, praising the state's GOP congressional delegation and voicing support for the military community at nearby Fort Bragg and those affected by Hurricane Dorian.
He received significant applause for his standard lines about building a border wall, protecting intellectual property from China and strengthening the military. But at the one-hour mark, the Expo Center crowd began to thin out.
Before the rally, the president met with members of communities hit by Dorian late last week. In anticipation of how the storm would affect access to polling places on Tuesday, the North Carolina State Board of Elections closed early voting in certain counties last Thursday and Friday and held extended hours over the weekend.
Vice President Mike Pence and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also visited the state on Monday to appear at a get-out-the-vote event for Bishop at Wingate University in Union County, on the other side of the congressional district.
Kalle Sousana, a volunteer at the event, said it was important to know that Bishop would "vote along with the president and a lot of the things he's trying to accomplish" on issues like national security and immigration.
As of Monday morning, Democratic voters were outpacing Republicans in early voting by about 7 percentage points. Both Bishop and Pence stressed the close nature of the race in their appearance in Union County, which the 2018 Republican candidate, Mark Harris, won narrowly.
McCready, the Democrat, ran against Harris in 2018 and has spent about 27 months campaigning in a district Mr. Trump won by 12 points. Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign's communications director, said that McCready's head start was an advantage, but said the race has remained competitive in part due to the White House's involvement.
"The fact that Dan Bishop is in position to win is, I think, a good part due to the president's personal efforts and interest in the state," Murtaugh told CBS News. "The most valuable thing that we've got as a campaign, our most valuable commodity is the president's time. And so for him to come and do a campaign rally the night before the special election says a lot."
Mr. Trump won North Carolina narrowly in 2016 and Murtaugh said the campaign considers it a competitive state to target in 2020. The Trump campaign currently has 20 people working on the ground in the Tarheel State, which will also elect a governor and senator in the upcoming election year.