In next week’s hotly contested special election in North Carolina, both sides of the deep political divide agree on one thing: The race is a sneak preview of 2020’s blockbuster fight for the White House.

Between the hurricane storming up the coast — and the North Carolina Board of Elections’ urging people to vote early in this rerun of a 2018 race marred by election fraud — it’s possible to dismiss the campaign in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District as an outlier, a sideshow to the presidential race that has captured the country’s attention for nearly a year.

But the plot points of the 2020 contest are clearly evident.

Republicans see the race as a proving ground for their Trump-focused strategy, and they’re tripling down. Their nominee, Dan Bishop, is an unfailing supporter of the president and Trump is scheduled to rally the troops in the district the night before the Tuesday special election.

Republicans are taking their message straight from the Trump playbook, claiming Democrats like Bishop’s opponent, Dan McCready, favor open borders and want to take away your guns and private health insurance. And, of course, they’ve come up with a derogatory nickname. In this case, it’s “Greedy McCready.”

The problem for the GOP in this case is that Dan McCready is no radical lefty. He’s a former Marine who speaks with authority about carrying an M-16 in Iraq. He is assertive about supporting the Second Amendment while protecting public safety by expanding background checks, something 90 percent of Americans support — including 74 percent of NRA members.

McCready also advocates for stronger accountability at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a move both sides of the aisle support.

He doesn’t want to take away anyone’s private health insurance. McCready supports improvements to Obamacare — and he calls it that. His bipartisan plan would lower health-care and prescription-drug costs while protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions. He doesn’t want to abolish ICE. He wants immigration reform that secures our borders and upholds our values.

Sorry, Republicans, but these are not radical far-left positions. That’s why Republican Dan Bishop is trying to run against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and “The Squad,” not politically moderate family man and former Marine Dan McCready.

Voters have grown weary of the president’s lies. Don’t tell them your opponent wants to take away your guns when he supports Second Amendment rights. And don’t call him Greedy McCready when all he did was partner with a fellow Marine to bring investors such as former Bank of America Chief Executive Hugh McColl Jr. and former Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers together to invest in solar energy and help build North Carolina’s clean energy industry — one which now supports more than 30,000 green energy jobs.

No, Dan Bishop doesn’t want to talk about how he never lifted a finger to help. So he just calls his opponent a bad name, and the president comes in and lies for him. But this isn’t 2016, and having the president falsely call someone greedy won’t work. No one believes the president got rich because he’s smart.

And then there is the voter fraud issue that forced a special election in the first place. After Republican Mark Harris won by 905 votes, evidence showed that absentee ballots were destroyed or illegally cast in violation of North Carolina law. In Bladen County, where only 19 percent of registered voters are Republican, Harris received 61 percent of the vote among absentee ballots.

Bishop is widely viewed as being part of an overall effort to suppress voter turnout in North Carolina, which means that in this special election he may reap what he has sown. The likely outcome is a very close race. If Dan Bishop wins, it will solidify the trends that are turning the 2020 race into all-Trump, all the time — with GOP candidates spouting poll-tested nicknames all across the country.

If McCready wins, that will mean that a more centrist strategy for Democrats flipped a district that has been represented by a Republican since 1963.

As for everyone else, take heed. NC-09 is coming soon to a theater near you.

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Mara Dolan is an attorney, political commentator and co-founder of Left of Center, which touts Democrats open to consensus-building and character in politics.

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