Can Ilario Pantano win in North Carolina 7?

Jim Geraghty of National Review reports that there’s a poll from the Civitas Institute of Raleigh showing Republican challenger Ilario Pantano ahead of Democratic incumbent Mike McIntyre in North Carolina 7. This is pretty astounding. McIntyre is not an obvious target. In the previous four elections within the boundaries of the current 7th district, he has received 71%, 73%, 73% and 69% of the vote; he has had a moderate voting record; unlike his 2nd district colleague Bob Etheridge he has not been videotaped shoving a questioning student out of the way. But if these numbers are anywhere close to right, he’s facing a real race.

Pantano is an interesting candidate, the son of Italian immigrants who worked at Goldman Sachs and after 9/11 resigned to reenlist in the Marine Corps. He was charged with misconduct in Iraq and then triumphantly cleared and vindicated, a story he tells in his book Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy. After his vindication he settled near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He is a fast talker with a New York accent—not a natural fit, one would think, for southeast North Carolina. But he seems to be making some headway. This district was not on anyone’s radar screen 20 months ago, even though it voted for John McCain in 2008. But it is now, and I note that McIntyre was one of the 39 House Democrats who joined Republicans and voted against the motion to adjourn Wednesday night. Perhaps he’s taking the poll seriously.

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