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Primary voters are headed to the polls today in North Carolina, a state that the GOP has a lot riding on at the presidential and Congressional levels this November.
House Republicans, hoping to keep their majority this cycle, have a real shot of picking up four seats in the Tar Heel State thanks to a partisan gerrymander.
Blue Dog Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell were drawn into considerably more Republican districts under the new map. Retiring Rep. Heath Shuler’s (D) district is now the most Republican in the state and a likely GOP pickup, and the district represented by retiring Rep. Brad Miller (D) is now a safe GOP seat.
In contested primaries, the winner must take more than 40 percent of the vote or the top two finishers head to a July 17 runoff.
Also on the primary ballot today: a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions, as well as the competitive Democratic primary to replace retiring Gov. Beverly Perdue (D). Neither are expected to have a huge effect on any of the Congressional primaries.
Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.
Even the most optimistic Tar Heel Republicans have their doubts about knocking off McIntyre in November. That’s because the momentum in the primary appears to be behind Iraq War veteran and 2010 GOP nominee Ilario Pantano, who lost to McIntyre last cycle by more than 7 points.
Pantano faces what is expected to be a very tight race with state Sen. David Rouzer. Pantano has always had the edge in enthusiasm — Rouzer has a rather severe charisma deficit. But Pantano has raised money like he’s running for a statehouse seat rather than for Congress.
Still, insiders see Pantano as having a geographical advantage in the race and expect him to squeak out a victory.
Pantano, though, is seen as undisciplined and would make a race with McIntyre a Tossup. National Democrats are already poised to paint Pantano as “out of touch with North Carolina families,” citing his work as an investment banker. If Rouzer, a more sober-sounding and vanilla politician, is the nominee, the race leans in the GOP’s favor, but it’s no sure thing.
As if to underscore GOP doubts today about knocking off McIntyre, sources said ambitious Republicans in the state are already making serious inquiries about a 2014 run against the Democrat.