Midterm Races in North Carolina

Before addressing the Senate race, there are some interesting congressional House seat races.  The Republicans hold the partisan advantage in the Tar Heel State’s delegation 9-4.  No one is expecting much change here, although change may be in the offing.  Three of those 4 Democratic seats are safe.  The exception is the 7th District where incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’M000485′ ] is retiring in a district with a +11 GOP Cook PVI rating (I rate it slightly less than that).  Before we get to that race, there are races in the 2nd, 5th, and 6th that need mentioning.

In the 2nd, located in central North Carolina, Republican incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’E000291′ ] faces former television personality Clay Aiken.  Apparently Aiken believed his show business background would catapult him into the spotlight politically.  However, his show business friends have all but overlooked his candidacy.  In their lone debate, Ellmers highlighted Aiken’s naivete while he tried to portray her as beholden to [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ].  This debate was Aiken’s best chance and he did, at times, deliver some blows, but Ellmers more than defended herself and inflicted some blows of her own.  Prediction:  Ellmers by at least 10 points.

In the 5th District, incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’F000450′ ] is taking on Democrat Josh Brannon who is running a populist campaign pitting the middle class against the infamous 1% on virtually every issue.  That will play on college campuses, but not elsewhere.  Foxx will win this race.  Meanwhile, [mc_name name=’Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’C000556′ ], a Republican is retiring from the Sixth District.  Mark Walker emerged from a crowded primary and had to face the favored Phil Berger in a runoff.  He will face Democrat Laura Fjeld.  In the lone poll out of district, Walker leads by 21 points which seems a little too high.  Fjeld has recently gone on the attack against Walker over an Eagle Forum endorsement he received.  The Eagle Forum is an anti-feminist organization opposed to the Violence Against Women Act.  In the end, the attacks will sway this election very little and Walker will win in the 15-point range.

In the 7th, with [mc_name name=’Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’M000485′ ] stepping down, the GOP is poised to do something they have not done in over 100 years in North Carolina.  The last time a Republican represented this area of the state in any of its congressional district incarnations was 1881.  Former state senator David Rouzer will be the Republican candidate and take on Jonathan Barfield.  Although everything would seem to favor the GOP here, redistricting has made this Republican-leaning, but there is enough diversity to keep a close watch on this race.  Even still, I believe the Democratic Party has given up on this race and David Rouzer will win, but not in a landslide.

That leaves that Senate race pitting Democratic incumbent [mc_name name=’Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’H001049′ ] against Thom Tillis.  Tillis was the choice of the GOP establishment and he had to fight off Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon in the primary which was not all that close in the end.  However, his campaign against Hagan had difficulty getting off the ground because of the crowded primary field and a legislative session that ran longer than expected in North Carolina.  That not only thwarted his stump speeches, but also fundraising.  The fact is that Hagan has led in the polls against Tillis since February of this year.

Tillis entered this campaign with a pay-to-play allegation lodged against him.  That scandal has been overshadowed of late when it was revealed that Hagan’s husband benefited to the tune of $400,000 from the Obama stimulus when his solar company received funds.  It should be noted that Hagan voted for that stimulus.  The Democrats have fought back by charging that a bank in which Tillis invested received his support in a green energy tax incentive.

For his part, Tillis is tying Hagan to Obama in North Carolina- a state Obama narrowly carried in 2008, but lost in 2012.  With his overall approval ratings falling, it is hard to see how Obama is any more popular in North Carolina than he was in 2012 when he lost the state and its 15 electoral votes.  Although Hagan herself receives approval ratings near 50%, the attacks on Hagan and associating her with Obama have had an effect.  After all the polls in September, Tillis trailed by an average 3.1 points.  Today that has dropped to a 1 point average shortfall.  Furthermore, like most other candidates, Obama is toxic and Hagan has avoided him.

For her part, Hagan is portraying Tillis as the ethically-challenged face of the North Carolina legislature.  In response to certain state level reforms, particularly a voter ID law, shortened early voting period and eliminating Election Day registration, civil rights groups have been holding weekly protests called “Moral Mondays.”

This is a tough race.  Tillis should get some kudos for making some inroads.  It should also be mentioned that [mc_name name=’Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’H001049′ ] was the first Democrat elected to the Senate since Sam Ervin in 1968 when she won in 2008 with Obama at the top of the ticket in a fairly close race against Elizabeth Dole.  Furthermore, I believe the Democrat’s got their hopes needlessly up when Obama won the state in 2008.  Because of that, it has been designated a “purple state.”  Personally, I would still count it in the red category.

But, there are too many nagging questions here to go on a limb and predict a Tillis mini-upset.  Although I may revisit this race at the end of this series, at this point I am calling a 3 point victory for [mc_name name=’Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’H001049′ ].

Next: In my opinion, one of the most intriguing states this year- Colorado.


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