Under the Dome

Cook Report gives Clay Aiken breathing room

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers still has a lock on re-election – but .

That’s the analysis by the authoritative and nonpartisan Cook Political Report in a long piece published Friday about Clay Aiken’s chances of an upset.

For reasons laid out in detail in the article, The Cook Report “as a precaution” has moved the 2nd Congressional District seat from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican.”

Daylight for Aiken comes after the Report sat down with him and came away impressed with his grasp of the issues, passion and sense of political realism.

Ellmers’ district has been gerrymandered to further bolster a GOP candidate. But that could work against her, the Report says: Most of the redrawn district is new to Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn, and more people recognize the pop singer’s name than they do hers.

There’s always a chance that the North Carolina legislature’s swing to the hard right could bring a backlash from those who think differently about education and voting rights, the article says. And Sen. Kay Hagan’s re-election machine could turn out Democratic voters beneficial to Aiken.

All that and more – big missteps by Ellmers, for example – would have to line up in Aiken’s favor. “He needs a perfect storm like we’ve rarely seen to beat Ellmers,” the Report concludes.

The piece barely mentions Aiken’s other obstacle: He still has a Democratic primary to survive against a rival who is expected to be well-financed. The Report says he shouldn’t have much trouble defeating Keith Crisco, and being a celebrity, he shouldn’t have trouble raising enough money.

Still, the analysis goes, Ellmers is “the overwhelming favorite to win.”