Larry Kissell takes office today, perhaps the unlikeliest of people to be joining Congress. Three years ago at this time about the only people who would have thought it possible were the candidate himself and a small assortment of friends, family, and supporters.
I've seen Kissell listed several times as someone who was able to win this year because of increased black turnout in his district, but who might have trouble in 2010 without Barack Obama at the top of the ticket.
I disagree that Kissell needed Obama to win this year. The 8th District is about 30% black. I think the worst case scenario for black turnout in a district is usually 80% of the African American population, which for the 8th would put it at 24%. I recalibrated our final 8th District poll that way, adjusted for the fact that we underestimated him a little bit, and it came out as a 4 point Kissell victory even at worst case scenario black turnout.
Given that Kissell's 2010 opponent is not likely to be as well funded as Hayes was this year unless Hayes himself runs again, I don't think he's going to be at the frontline of Republican targets as long as he keeps raising money and doesn't do anything dumb. If he lost it would probably be part of a massive sweep pretty much out of his control.
Although I don't think black turnout made the difference for Kissell, I think a variety of candidates in North Carolina do owe their victories to that. We should have a new report on that out in the next week or so.