North Carolina is considered, to some, a state in political transition. Well, at least Democrats think that way given the fact that Obama narrowly won the state in 2008 giving them a false sense of hope. In reality, that movement has only been seen in the expanding urban areas. So the alleged purpleness that Democrats see in North Carolina had more shades of red than blue and this will be proven this November.
Although there is no Governor's race, the Senate seat of incumbent Republican Richard Burr is in play. He is challenged by Elaine Marshall. Democrats initially believed they had a decent chance at unseating Burr given a few facts. First, in the previous Senate election, they stole a Republican seat. Second, Obama win the state in the 2008 election and third, Burr's popularity ratings in the state are/were somewhere south of 50%. But a funny thing happened along the way. Obama's liberal agenda, to those in North Carolina, is proving more unpopular than Richard Burr. Because of her association via party affiliation to the Obama agenda, Marshall has not been able to gain any traction in the race.
Like Ohio and Indiana and Virginia, Democrats over-estimate their 2008 Presidential victories in these states and North Carolina is no different. What they fail to apparently see is that Indiana barely went to Obama as did North Carolina go to Obama mainly spurred on by the youth and black vote in this state. Those are two things North Carolina has an abundance of. But, after seeing the Obama agenda in action, I would venture that both voting blocks will stay away from the polls, or if they do show up in numbers, will not necessarily vote the Democratic line. Except in a few expanding urban areas, North Carolina, like Indiana and Virginia, remains a conservative state.
Thus, it is no surprise to see Richard Burr steadily pulling away from Marshall. Initially, he led in the polls by single, low digit margins, but he is now up by about 13 points. And the best part of it is that Obama, Pelosi and Reid are doing the job for Burr. I find it interesting that Obama has not been to North Carolina recently to help Marshall or any other Democrat. It is interesting and strange since Obama felt this state essential to his chances in 2008.
Of the state's 13 Congressional districts. 8 are held by Democrats. None of the five Republican districts are in question- they are safe. Four of the Democratic districts are safe for the incumbent party- Butterfield in the 1st, Price in the 4th, Watt in the 12th, and Miller in the 13th. Thus, North Carolina represents a state where the Republican Party can play offense in picking up seats in the House.
In the Second District, Bob Etheridge appears vulnerable in a district that actually leans Republican. Two events define his chances of victory. First was his vote in favor of Obamacare. Secondly, this is the same Bob Etheridge who had a testy, some say violent confrontation with a student photographer in June who had the audacity to ask him if he supported the Obama agenda. he may not have answered the question then, but he will have to answer to the voters come November 2nd. He is opposed by Republican Renee Elmers.
In the 7th District, incumbent Mike McIntyre is considered the ideal Democrat in a Republican district in that he is sufficiently conservative in a conservative district. He does have his vote against Obamacare to tout in his favor. Actually, I find it strange that the Cook political report would rate this district +5 Republican considering the fact they have not sent a Republican to the House since 1899. However, Republican challenger Iliaro Pantaro is running a good campaign thus far. Wouldn't that be a statement to the Obama White House if Pantaro could pull off what no Republican has done in this district in 112 years!
The 8th is represented by Larry Kissel and he was targeted early by the Republican Party and is opposed by Harrold Johnson. However, Kissel enjoys an approximate 5 point lead over Johnson in the polls. Finally, in the 11th, which encompasses the western corner of the state, Republicans have also targeted incumbent Democrat Heath Schuler early in the campaign. However, a look at his voting record in the four big Obama agenda items show him supporting only cap-and-trade legislation. Whether this 75% anti-Obama record is enough to preserve his conservative or moderate credentials remains to be seen. Thus far, it would appear so since he maintains an approximate nine point lead in the polls over Republican challenger Jeff Miller.
In conclusion, it would appear likely that Burr will win another six years in the Senate. It would also appear that the Republican Party will pick up at least one seat and I believe that will be the seat of Etheridge in the Second District. Anything beyond that would be additional good news. Assuming the Republican establishment was right in the 8th and 11th districts (however, not born out in the polls), that would be three seats. In reality, I believe that both Kissel and Schuler will win their battles barely and that the more likely victory will be Pantaro unseating McIntyre. Most importantly, it will force Obama to realize that North Carolina is very, very much in play in 2012 and that unlike 2008, this state is not the blue status, or even the purple status that many believe it to be.