Thursday, June 26, 2008

North Carolina 8: Result Is No Shocker

By Nathan L. Gonzales

North Carolina Rep. Robin Hayes (R) is vulnerable.

This is a surprise?

A newly released Democratic poll showed challenger Larry Kissell (D) edging out Hayes in a general election matchup. But the survey just confirmed the obvious and does not signify movement in a race that was already highly competitive.

In November 2006, Hayes and Kissell battled to a virtual draw, with the Congressman prevailing, 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent, or a margin of 329 votes.

Six months later, an Anzalone Liszt Research survey for Kissell’s campaign had the race essentially tied, with Hayes at 45 percent and the schoolteacher at 43 percent.

In November of last year, a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (D) survey conducted for the Service Employees International Union and the Center for American Progress Action Fund showed Kissell leading Hayes, 49 percent to 47 percent.

And now in June 2008, an Anzalone Liszt Research survey for Kissell’s campaign showed the schoolteacher leading the incumbent narrowly, 45 percent to 43 percent.

The closeness of the race can be viewed two ways. On one hand, it shows Hayes’ inability to create some breathing room between him and his opponent, who nearly won last cycle and will be better funded this time. On the other hand, Democrats may have lost their opportunity to knock off Hayes in the worst Republican environment in decades two years ago. Either way, Hayes won’t be taken by surprise.

The Republican is a perennial Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee target. First, it was because of some of his trade votes, but now it has more to do with the competitive nature of the district. President Bush won it with 54 percent in 2004, but the recent Anzalone survey showed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) leading in the presidential race, 50 percent to 37 percent, in a district that is more than one-quarter African-American.

After winning an open seat in 1998 with 51 percent, Hayes was re-elected with 55 percent two years later, defeating Democratic lawyer Mike Taylor both times. The 8th district was subsequently redrawn, giving Hayes more Democrats, and drawing the attention of the DCCC.

Hayes would go on to defeat young attorney/former Yale running back Chris Kouri (D) with 54 percent in 2002 and young beauty queen Beth Troutman, who is now a Charlotte TV news anchor,with 56 percent in 2004.

This might be the year Democrats knock off Robin Hayes, but it’s no surprise that the race is close and the Congressman will be ready for the fight.

This item first appeared on on June 20, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.