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Candidates Gear Up For The General Election

With North Carolina's primary runoff election behind us, candidates across the state are gearing up for the general election. Joining Morning Edition host Duncan McFadyen to discuss some of those contests is Catawba College Political Scientist Michael Bitzer. Professor Bitzer will be with us most Fridays between now and November. MCFADYEN: Let's start with the Congressional runoffs in the 8th and 9th districts. In the 9th, was there any surprise there---a fairly narrow margin of victory for Pittenger over Pendergraph? BITZER: It really was one of the most nasty primary battles in probably the entire country, along with the fact that Robert Pittenger put in well over $2 million of his own money to win. It really kind of signified that there was a division within the Republican Party. Certainly Pittenger's job now is to re-coalesce that party going into the general campaign. MCFADYEN: Is there a chance that some Pendergraph voters may choose just not to vote in the Novemeber election? BITZER: I have to think that there has to be some of that going on among Pendergraph supporters right now. Certainly, I would doubt that they would willingly go over and vote for the Democrat, Jennifer Roberts. But, this election is going to be about massive turnout, particularly among the bases. And Pittenger is going to need that kind of turnout to win in November. MCFADYEN: In the 8th district, opensecrets.org---a website that tracks campaign spending---says that so far this year that it's the Congressional race with the most outside spending in the country. What's going on in the 8th District? BITZER: It is probably the biggest bulls-eye across the map of the United States. Larry Kissell is one of the most endangered Democrats, and outside money, particularly based on the Citizens United case, is really going to be flooding into that district. Right now it was Republican versus Republican, but we're going to see the attacks turned on Larry Kissell, so those numbers are going to go up. MCFADYEN: Was it a surprise that Hudson basically blew out Keadle----by a 27 point margin? BITZER: It really was surprising. We all thought it was going to be closer, again because of the nastiness and the amount of money that was pumped into it. But, Hudson is pretty much the establishment conservative in that race. He got a lot of outside support, and so this is going to help him going into the general campaign against Kissell. MCFADYEN: Turnout was just 3.58 percent; out of 6.1 million registered voters in North Carolina, a little over 220,000 voters showed up at the polls. What does that say about this primary runoff election? BITZER: Even though you can throw all the mud you want to, getting voters out is just an abysmal turnout for this past primary. And the consequence is in some of these races-- -say, for example, in senate 41 here in Mecklenberg County---this election decided who was going to win in November, so Jeff Tarte has got the bye going into Raleigh. The voters have already spoken, and it's only three percent. MCFADYEN: Speaking of throwing mud, the Charlotte market has seen presidential ads going back to before the South Carolina primary in January, because of the shared TV market. They've continued through the North Carolina primary, and now the runoff, now we're headed to the conventions, the general electionare we going to get any relief from these ads? BITZER: No rest for the weary, I'm afraid. This is the baseline, and we're just going to see the numbers skyrocket. North Carolina is a battleground state, and Charlotte has got one of the largest media markets in the state. The big question will be, ultimately, does Obama pull his money out into more important states, but I think we're here to see the nastiness on TV. MCFADYEN: Michael Bitzer is a political scientist at Catawba College in Salisbury. You can read more of his insights on his blog, "The Party Line," at wfae.org. Professor Bitzer, thanks. BITZER: My pleasure.