Kissell's neighboring 8th District swung even further in redistricting, from 52 percent President Obama to 57 percent for McCain. Yet the prospect of a November pickup has faded into the background as Republicans decide on their nominee. The Club for Growth threw its considerable weight behind a former local official, dentist Scott Keadle, backing him with bundled contributions and nearly $265,000 in independent expenditures. Although Keadle's conservatism won him some outside help, it also sparks concern about his viability. (The Charlotte Observer said only two GOP candidates were "worth considering" -- and Keadle wasn't one of them. They, and many establishment Republicans, have endorsed Richard Hudson, a former congressional chief of staff. Hudson is also the first non-incumbent to receive aid from the YG Action Fund, a super PAC created and staffed by former aides to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. Perhaps in an effort to shed his establishment image, Hudson recently questioned whether President Obama was born in the United States, a move that could help him in the short-term but couldn't possibly in a general election. With a field of five candidates, this primary could be heading for a runoff. (A top-two runoff would occur in July if no candidate exceeds 40 percent on Tuesday.)
The rest of the action in the Tar Heel State will also be in Republican primaries. Runoffs are distinct possibilities in the 9th and 11th Districts too, where 11 and eight Republicans, respectively, are vying for two open seat nominations. The 9th District, vacated by retiring Rep. Sue Myrick, is safely Republican, and her anointed replacement, county commissioner Jim Pendergraph, emulated Hudson in "going birther" a few weeks ago, to derision from the local press. A millionaire former state senator, Robert Pittenger, has been Pendergraph's main antagonist in the primary, and the two may well meet in a runoff. But the wide field makes the eventual result unpredictable.
The same is true in the 11th District. Democrats got Hayden Rogers, Shuler's ex-chief of staff, to run for his boss's seat, but he'll have a very tough race against whomever emerges from a crowded Republican primary where the candidates have almost exclusively chosen to go after the president and congressional Democrats instead of each other. With such little differentiation in a field that includes just one elected official, a district attorney, it's anyone's guess how the results will stack up.
The remaining GOP contest of note is in the 13th District, where Wake County official Paul Coble is up against former U.S. Attorney George Holding. Coble brings a wealth of local government experience to the race, while Holding brings a wealth of wealth: He loaned himself over a quarter-million dollars, more than Coble's total fundraising, and a super PAC funded mostly by Holding's relatives has spent an additional $550,000 on TV ads backing his run. Coble was the mayor of Raleigh and has been involved in local politics for two decades, but the deluge of television ads he faces calls to mind the Maryland 6th District Democratic primary earlier this year, where a well-connected, grassroots-powered state senator ran into a multi-million dollar advertising buzzsaw. Coble started the campaign better-known, but it's a rare candidate who can stand up to that kind of advertising onslaught.