Democrats are preparing for a big year and Republicans are conceding that November could be rough for them this year. At a press conference in March, a Democratic strategist laid out an optimistic scenario for legislative races in North Carolina. Meanwhile, Republicans have identified numerous Congressional seats that they thought would be safe but now seem to be in trouble.

According to Morgan Jackson, Roy Cooper’s chief strategist, Democrats enjoy a 16 point lead in enthusiasm. A poll produced recently showed 67% of registered Democrats say they’re extremely motivated to vote in November as opposed to only 51% of Republicans. Those numbers reflect the engagement we’ve seen in marches and protests across the state this year. Republicans, in contrast, are defending a president who has thrown away all the values about morality that they claimed to hold dear.

News out of the GOP’s Washington operation gives those numbers credence. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says, “This is going to be a challenging election year.” In North Carolina, both NC-09 and NC-13 are moving up the charts of the competitive races to watch.

Incumbents Ted Budd (NC-13) and Robert Pittenger (NC-09) are on every Republican watch list because of quality Democratic challengers. Both Kathy Manning, who is challenging Budd, and Dan McCready, who is running in NC-09, have put together solid campaigns and raised serious money. Budd is failing to put together the resources he needs to win and Pittenger faces a primary challenge that will likely deplete his resources if he wins. If he loses, Mark Harris is probably too far to the right for the suburban independents he needs to win the district.

In addition, NC-02 will probably show up on the radar screen if Ken Romley can win his primary. Romley is a first time candidate who is raising serious money and putting together a strong organization. (Full disclosure, I’m working with the Romley campaign.) The Second District was the second closest district in 2016 and fits the profile of suburban districts becoming more Democratic. Still, it will take a candidate who can raise millions to win the seat and Romley is the only candidate who appears able to do so.

Democrats in North Carolina have polling that shows they have the advantage heading into the midterm elections this year. Apparently, Republicans in Washington are seeing the same thing and gearing up to protect endangered Republicans in seats they hoped were safe. That said, maybe it’s a case of managing expectations. Republicans might be downplaying their chances to fire up lackluster incumbents while Democrats are trying to add fuel to the momentum they’re feeling. We won’t know until sometime in October and that’s a long way off.

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