This was not how the Republican runoff in the western North Carolina mountains was supposed to go. Lynda Bennett, a family friend of the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was Meadows’s pick to win his old House seat, in the state’s Eleventh Congressional District. A businesswoman, Sunday-school teacher, and longtime Republican Party volunteer, was suitably conservative and boasted at every turn that she was “pro-Trump.” She had the backing of some of the most influential groups in Trump’s Washington, including the Susan B. Anthony List, Citizens United, and the American Conservative Union. And she had the support of the President himself, who his endorsement and a robocall for her.

But it didn’t work out. A twenty-four-year-old candidate named Madison Cawthorn, who won’t reach the eligibility age for Congress until his birthday, in August, , by a margin of nearly two to one. Confident, engaging, and very conservative, he outworked Bennett and capitalized on resentment toward Meadows to win dozens of endorsements from local sheriffs, county commissioners, and former rivals. The victory puts him into a November election against , a retired Air Force colonel and former chief prosecutor for the military commissions at the Guantánamo naval base. Davis aims to become the first Democrat since , a former Washington Redskins quarterback, to win the Republican-leaning district, which was recently redrawn to include all of liberal Asheville.

欧洲杯买彩票Cawthorn is no #NeverTrumper. Far from it. , he reiterated his support for “our great president,” and said that “the far left is lighting our cities on fire.” A homeschooled football and basketball player who lost the use of his legs in a car crash, , he sees “the rise of socialism” , and bills himself as a fighter who will “.” He told supporters, on Saturday, “These far-left liberals, there’s no middle ground with them. They don’t want us to have guns. They want to be able to have abortions whenever they want. There’s not a lot of middle ground we can meet them on.”

The Eleventh District includes seventeen counties, most of which are rural, in the western tip of North Carolina, bordering three states: Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. After Republicans in the state legislature carved most of Asheville out of the district, in 2011, Shuler, a conservative Democrat, stepped aside. Meadows emerged from a career in real estate to spend seven years in the seat, becoming a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus. He for opposing the Affordable Care Act, needling John Boehner, who was the House Speaker at the time, from the right, and pugnaciously defending Trump against impeachment.

Meadows announced, in December, that he would not seek a fifth term, and then stepped down, in March, to become Trump’s .

欧洲杯买彩票The timing of his announcement—the day before the filing deadline for primary candidates—left a bad taste among many Republicans, who to advance Bennett, a family friend with no elected experience. Within hours of Meadows’s announcement, Bennett launched her campaign. that the campaign had created its Facebook page the day before, and that the campaign’s domain name had been registered in October by Meadows’s brother. “People felt like Meadows sold them out for Bennett,” Chris Cooper, who heads the political-science and public-affairs department at Western Carolina University, told me this week.

While Cawthorn welcomed attention during the runoff, answering reporters’ calls and appearing , Bennett was elusive, often ducking interviews, and she declined to debate Cawthorn. A local accused her of stonewalling. But her campaign Web site made plain her strategy. The first image that appeared, on the home page, was a photo of Trump with both thumbs up, and the headline “ENDORSED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP.” Her endorsements, came from people outside the district, including the arch-conservative Texas senator Ted Cruz and , which is run by Meadows’s wife, Debbie. To spread her message, Bennett posted Scripture on Facebook, along with short videos, , which endorsed the comment of a Republican candidate who called the State Board of Education “the board of indoctrination.”

欧洲杯买彩票On policy, Cawthorn told me a few days before Tuesday’s balloting, “There’s not a lot of daylight in between us.” When I asked him about her campaigning style, he rolled his wheelchair back a few feet, turned sideways, pursed his lips, and mimicked her in a clipped, expressionless voice: “First and foremost, I am a Christian. My strength comes from the Lord. I am endorsed by President Trump and endorsed by Mark Meadows. If you’d like to see anything else, all my positions are on my Web site, and I look forward to speaking to you.”

To hear Cawthorn’s pitch, I drove through the mountains to Hendersonville for his final rally. The campaign laid out a barbecue meal in a showroom connected to , a gun store. The late-afternoon sun was blazing, with outdoor temperatures in the mid-eighties and little air moving inside. Roughly a hundred people stood in line for food and sat together, talking and laughing, at folding tables draped with festive red and blue paper tablecloths. There were no signs of social distancing, and no one wore a mask, although Henderson County was continuing to , and more than forty people there had died of COVID-19. I asked a participant about this afterward. He said that he was healthy and unworried.

When everyone had finished eating, Cawthorn, smiling and energetic, talked about himself and the country. He said that the COVID欧洲杯买彩票-19 shutdown, directed in North Carolina by Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, was “completely politically motivated.” He explained that he was happy to stay indoors for two or three weeks to prevent large-scale deaths, but came to question the longer-term strategy: “I’m driving down the streets, and I didn’t see bodies lying in the streets. I wasn’t going to any funerals. I really didn’t know anyone who had coronavirus.”

Cawthorn lit into “the mainstream media and the far-left lefties,” saying that they have worked to “infiltrate all of our education systems to be able to just lay the groundwork and make fertile soil for them to sow the discord they want. We all know they want us in a state of fear.” He is recently engaged and hopes to have children soon, he said, and he wonders whether they will grow up in a world “where they’re chastised for being Christian, one where they have a government that tells them what they can and cannot do, one where they have to pay an eighty-per-cent tax rate, so they can give free stuff to all kinds of people all over the world.”

Turning to the widespread Black Lives Matter protests, Cawthorn focussed on episodes of looting, and said that the country has, for too long, “relied on the public-education system to raise our children. That’s wrong. I feel like we need a strong system of discipline inside our homes, because you’re seeing, right now, all these kids who have grown up not getting spankings and getting participation trophies going out and rioting in the street.” Cawthorn, who is running in a district that is more than ninety per cent white, also described what he called an “epidemic” of fatherless homes. He said that the American welfare system is “basically incentivizing young women, especially minority women, to not get married, and have more children, because they get more welfare checks because of that.”

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Like politicians across the political spectrum, Cawthorn sees this time in American history as a watershed moment. When I spoke to him after the rally, he likened voters’ decisions to drops of rain that could go east to the Atlantic or west to the Pacific, leading to “two different realities.” He said, “I feel like our nation is on its knees, right now, reaching out a hand, and it’s in pain and it wants to be led. It wants to have that compassionate leader, to say, ‘Hey, I’m here for you.’ ” I asked if Trump is that compassionate leader. He thought a minute and answered, “He’s in a really difficult position right now.” I asked what he tells voters who ask whether he supports the President. He said, “He has done an incredible job for us. He will be remembered as one of the greatest Presidents of all time.”

Two days after the Cawthorn rally, I sat down with Davis, the Democratic nominee, in an Asheville back yard. Raised in the town of Shelby, where his father, a disabled veteran, commanded a local American Legion Post, he attended college and law school in North Carolina and then had a career as an Air Force lawyer. After spending two years as chief prosecutor at Guantánamo, he resigned, in 2007, over his objections to the use of evidence obtained by waterboarding欧洲杯买彩票. Now sixty-one, he is counting on the new district boundaries to give him a chance in November. Cooper, the political scientist, said that the redistricting makes the election more competitive, “but the demographics of the district are still Republican, the vote patterns are still Republican.”

欧洲杯买彩票In talking with Davis, I was struck by the fact that he and Cawthorn highlighted almost entirely different issues. For Cawthorn, at his Hendersonville rally, it was guns, abortion, lawlessness, taxes, and Christianity. Davis started with health care, and North Carolina’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. He spoke of public education, the economy, broadband access, veterans’ care, and the environment. I mentioned the disconnect. He said, “The three they talk about are their loyalty to Trump, their love of guns, and their hate for abortion. They’re great dog-whistle issues, but they don’t impact the day-to-day lives of folks in the district or their kids’ future.” He’s looking forward to debating Cawthorn and seeing who comes out on top.