By Joshua Miller, Roll Call
At some point over the next nine months, Hayden Rogers, retiring Rep. Heath Shulerâ€™s (D-N.C) former chief of staff, will probably drive by Mount Mitchell, about an hour outside Asheville.
At more than a mile high, itâ€™s the tallest American peak east of the Mississippi River â€” and it should serve as a good reminder for Rogers of the steep uphill slog he faces as he attempts to keep the 11th district on the Democratic side of the ledger.
Shulerâ€™s decision to retire at the end of the 112th Congress means that a nonincumbent Democrat will have to hew a path to victory in a district that would have only voted 40 percent for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election and will almost certainly vote in smaller numbers for the presidentâ€™s re-election. Given the fact that this is now an open-seat race in a very conservative district, Roll Call is changing the rating of the 11th district race from Tossup to Likely Republican.
Democrats in the state believe that Rogers, who has served as Shulerâ€™s closest adviser since the former football star came to Congress in January 2007, is the best candidate Democrats could have gotten for the race. He is expected to campaign on issues similar to those that helped the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Shuler win three terms in Congress.
â€œHayden definitely has the profile that could fit that district,â€ North Carolina Democratic strategist Scott Falmlen said before Rogersâ€™ announcement. â€œNobody will outwork him.â€