Millions of dollars have fanned the contest between Democratic incumbent Congressman Mike McIntyre and his Republican challenger, state Sen. David Rouzer. The race has drawn the attention of national political organizations on both sides, which see it as key in the battle to retain GOP control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
But it still comes down to shaking as many hands as possible, in the hope that little gesture – repeated often enough – will pay off one vote at a time.
That’s what McIntyre and Rouzer are doing for their final push. In an election that is expected to be extremely close, both men are trying to cover as much territory as they can before Tuesday in the newly drawn 7th Congressional District. The district includes all or part of 12 counties from the Triangle to the coast.
“Four days out and David’s goal is to meet as many voters as he possibly can,” Rouzer spokeswoman Jessica Wood said Friday. “We’ve known all along this will be a really close race. It will come down to the wire. But we feel we have momentum on our side.”
A similar report came from the McIntyre camp.
“We’re still confident. We feel really good,” McIntyre’s spokesman, Lachlan McIntosh said. “The other side has spent an awful lot of money trying to distort Mike’s record, and really fallen flat on their faces.”
It was clear this summer that this would be one of the most expensive House campaigns in the country. Now, closing in on Election Day, the race has drawn close to $6 million in outside money, most of it favoring Rouzer.
Seventy-five percent of the money raised on Rouzer’s behalf has come from outside interests: the national organizations Young Guns Network, Young Guns Action Fund, Congressional Leadership Fund and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Half of the money on McIntyre’s side is from the outside: the House Majority PAC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Counting just the candidates’ campaign committees alone, nearly three-fourths of Rouzer’s contributors have been individuals. More than half of McIntyre’s contributions have come from political action committees.
There are plenty of ways to slice the numbers, and both men use them to prove public support is on their side.
Much of the money raised on both sides went to months of bare-knuckles TV advertisements that have landed potentially damaging blows on both sides. Just last week, the Rouzer campaign wrote to 10 TV stations in the Triangle and Wilmington demanding they stop airing an ad that claimed Rouzer supported outsourcing jobs overseas.
Rouzer’s ads portrayed McIntyre as a do-nothing incumbent who has voted with a liberal president and speaker of the House. McIntyre’s have stressed that Rouzer worked as a lobbyist for a foreign interest, and stressed his own conservative record during his 16 years in office.
At times, the clash was almost comical as McIntyre was forced to defend his conservative credentials and even outflank Rouzer, a former aide to the late Sen. Jesse Helms, on the right. McIntyre accused Rouzer of being soft on immigration, and touted his own gun-rights record.
“The job is to cast doubt amongst your opponent’s base,” Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University, said in a recent interview. “It’s a tried, trusted method done in North Carolina sometimes by both parties.
“McIntyre is casting himself as an independent-minded guy of North Carolina values who has had some influence over policymaking, keeping the party label out of it.
“Given the district leans Republican, Rouzer and his surrogates are trying to connect that ‘D’ label to him by talking about Obama and Pelosi and McIntyre in the same breath.”