Donald Trump’s wild and baseless claims about his North Carolina intervention
There’s no doubt that the last-minute campaign stop by President Donald Trump on Monday helped Republican Dan Bishop squeak to victory in Tuesday’s North Carolina special election. Bishop said as much himself on CNN on Wednesday: “We were far behind. We were making progress, but the President and Vice President Pence coming in, I think, it put us over the top.”
A look at the numbers suggest that’s, broadly speaking, right. While Bishop struggled in the more suburban parts of the 9th District, he cleaned up in the more rural parts — areas where Trump’s appeal remains as strong (if not stronger) than when he was first elected in 2016.
All of which makes this a nice enough story for Trump — even though there were ominous clouds in Bishop’s win. Claim victory and move on.
But that’s not really in Trump’s DNA. He always has to gild the lily. Put the extra cherry on top of the other cherry on top of the sundae. Which brings me to this tweet on Tuesday night from Trump:
“Dan Bishop was down 17 points 3 weeks ago. He then asked me for help, we changed his strategy together, and he ran a great race. Big Rally last night. Now it looks like he is going to win. @CNN & @MSNBC are moving their big studio equipment and talent out. Stay tuned!”
He repeated that claim — with slight tweaks — on Wednesday afternoon.
“The media thought he was going to lose,” Trump said of Bishop. “I worked very hard with him. He made up a 17-point lead in two weeks.”
Which isn’t true! Or at least, isn’t true based on all public information.
Start here: There was very little quality polling done in this race. After a long internet search, I tracked down six polls conducted in the race — from May until earlier this month. The largest lead McCready held in ANY of these polls was four points. (McCready led three polls, Bishop led two and one showed the race tied.)
There is then no public data — from two weeks ago or three weeks ago or any time — that showed Bishop behind McCready by anything like 17 points. Could there be a private poll that Trump was shown that was never released that showed Bishop so far behind? It’s possible, I suppose. But if that was the case, wouldn’t Trump push for that poll’s release the second people started questioning his claim? And the answer to that is of course he would.
Then there is the claim from Trump that he helped Bishop “change his strategy” to turn around that 17-point deficit, which — reminder — never existed.
Asked what specific strategy change Trump recommended to Bishop, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said this on Wednesday: “You’ve gotta ask the President how he changed the strategy.”
Riiiiiiiiight. That’s in line with the classic “the President’s tweet speaks for itself” response from Trump allies. Parscale isn’t going to talk about the change in strategy recommended by Trump because — and I am going to let you in on a little secret here — THERE WAS NO CHANGE IN STRATEGY.
Yes, these are dumb things to exaggerate and mislead about it. Because as I noted above, no one doubts that Trump’s trip to North Carolina on Monday helped Bishop eke out the win.
But Trump can’t be just a part of a win that, by the numbers, Republicans shouldn’t have had to fight so hard for. He has to be the hero of a race that supposedly everyone called unwinnable just a few weeks ago. In Trump’s retelling, he roared to the rescue, saving a seat for Republicans and shoving it in the media’s face to boot.
That just isn’t what happened. But it’s very much in line with Trump’s broader approach to life — in and out of politics: He is telling himself a story of his life and of the world around him in which he is the smartest and the biggest winner and always, always, always the hero. He could care less whether that story comports with established facts.