Jim Blaine, Dan Bishop’s chief strategist, decided not to focus on Mecklenburg and Union counties - even though they are home to more than 60% of the voters in the 9th Congressional District.
"From the start of the campaign, we believed there was not a whole lot of swing vote in Union County and Mecklenburg County," Blaine said. "The game in those counties was turning out your base."
And in Mecklenburg, McCready did just that. He made south Charlotte even more blue, winning all but one precinct in the city.
That was part of a trend of college-educated voters continuing to move away from the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, Union County stayed reliably red for Bishop.
But Blaine says Bishop was focused elsewhere.
"The Bishop campaign, we spent 75 to 80% of our paid campaign messaging in those eastern counties," he said.
In last year’s race against Mark Harris, McCready won five of the six mostly rural counties in the eastern part of the 9th. He won Anson, Richmond, Scotland, Robeson and Cumberland counties.
But Bishop flipped two of those counties – Richmond and Cumberland – and cut into McCready’s margins in the others.
Robeson County is a minority-majority county that McCready won with 56.4% of the vote last fall. Against Bishop, McCready only got 50.3% of the vote.
If once-solidly Republican areas vote for Democrats, Blaine says Republicans will be OK - so long as they replace them with rural, working class voters.
"If the floor vote for a Republican in Mecklenburg County is 43, 44, 45 percent, that is more than enough vote in a district like the 9th district, or in a statewide to form a new successful winning coalition with all the new rural and Democratic voters that the Trump coalition is picking up," Blaine said.
He said he believes Bishop was close to winning the race before President Trump held a rally for Bishop Monday night in Fayetteville. He compared Bishop to a football player getting to the one-yard-line on his own - and then getting help into the end zone.
Blaine said McCready was a good candidate, and a good fit for the district.
But he believes McCready’s support of Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of House Bill 370 was a problem for the Democrat. That bill would have required North Carolina sheriffs to cooperate with ICE and honor the agency’s detainer requests for people in county jails.
Still, there were positives for Democrats in the race. President Trump won by 12 in 2016. Bishop only won it by 2.