Even without a high-profile governor’s race or US Senate contest, North Carolina is once again on the national radar screen. At a conference of political consultants in Nashville last week, a DCCC staffer told an audience that North Carolina is the state to watch. The state is also featured prominently in a Politico article about the GOP hitting the panic button.
At a panel on the upcoming cycle, a DCCC representative told an audience that their initial target field had expanded to more than 100 seats. When someone asked which state he thought would surprise people, he said North Carolina. He predicted Democrats will pick up at least two seats here.
The Politico article reinforced the DCCC operative’s narrative. The article begins, “Republicans are rushing to shore up congressional seats deep in the heart of Trump country as they come to an alarming realization: In this midterm election, few GOP lawmakers are safe.” It points to Rep. Ted Budd (NC-13) as part of what GOP operatives call “the Foundation,” seats that Republicans must save to keep their majority. Budd, a freshman, was outraised for the second straight quarter by his likely Democratic opponent, Kathy Manning.
The article also said that the GOP Congressional Leadership fund, the super PAC associated the Republican House caucus, polled in both NC-09 and NC-02. A Republican operative said that results did not show that incumbents Robert Pittenger or George Holding were in trouble. They sure weren’t releasing results, though. Pittenger is in a heated primary and his likely Democratic opponent Dan McCready has far more cash-on-hand than him. NC-02 is the most urban/suburban district held by a Republican and was the second closest district in 2016. The Democratic primary will determine whether the seat is considered competitive or not. Both seats are giving the GOP heartburn.
Once again, North Carolina will be front and center in the election cycle. As the most one of the most competitive states in the nation, its Congressional races could determine who controls the House beginning in 2019. For Republicans, the realization that they’re defending seats that they tried to protect through gerrymandering shows volatility of the 2018 electorate.