Last week, here on PoliticsNC, Matt Phillippi made the case that Democrat Keith Crisco is the better candidate to face Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in the race for North Carolina’s Second Congressional District. Matt argues that Crisco can pull moderate to conservative voters in the rural district that his primary opponent, former American Idol star Clay Aiken, could not. Crisco’s model, though, assumes a traditional turnout, something national Democrats are hoping to change. 

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Dan Balz explains that to hold onto the Senate, Democrats are hoping to change the midterm electorate. In a nutshell, they want to make it younger and browner. Getting those voters to the polls, though, is a monumental task. 

A candidate like Clay Aiken is much more likely to appeal the voters Democrats want to see on Election Day than Keith Crisco. As today’s profile of the race in the News & Observer points out, “Where Aiken is animated, funny and articulate, Crisco is slow, quiet and authoritative.” In reaching and motivating voters, Aiken could be a draw. A vote for Crisco would be more of a deliberative decision.

In addition, pollster Stan Greenberg and Democracy Corps say that the key to changing the electorate is unmarried women. To energize them, Democrats need to focus on a more populist message. Instead of talking about the economic recovery, Democrats should be talking about economic disparity, especially as it impacts women.  

Aiken is a better messenger to deliver that message. Raised by a single mom, he has a rags to riches story that plays well with women and those still struggling in the economy. With his ability to connect to audiences, he offers the type of emotional appeal necessary to motivate voters, particularly those who feel left out of the recovery. 

For either Democrat to win, they will have to steal the election and will need a break, such as change in the national mood or a gaffe by the Congresswoman. Crisco, though, would steal it by winning traditionally conservative voters. Aiken would steal it by changing the electorate in such a way that he helps Democrats up and down the ballot. 


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