North Carolina is not considered a bellwether state. The governor's race was two years ago, and the only senate seat up this cycle is that of Richard Burr, who was considered safe and has been declared the victor less than two hours after polls closed.
Nonetheless, good fall weather has combined with several hot congressional races to create strong voter turnout. One of those hot races is being watched by the nation as a potential bellwether. Heath Shuler, a former University of Tennessee football star, and a pro-life, pro-gun Democrat has represented Western North Carolina for these past two years. He's the kind of Democrat who is supposed to still be able to win with independent voters.
But he's in a tight race against Republican Jeff Miller, and if he goes down early it's going to be a very long night for Democrats. In the first hour after the polls closed, Miller was ahead 52 percent to 48 percent. If the lead holds up, not only will Jeff Miller contribute to what will be a new GOP majority in the House, he will also force Democrats to rethink what it will take to win in non-urban areas all across the United States.
Election watchers say a strong turnout here in North Carolina will favor Republicans, and State Board of Elections director Gary Bartlett has predicted a 45 percent voter turnout today. That's significantly higher than the 37 percent turnout in 2006, the last year with statewide and national races but no presidential election.
See WORLD's interactive national map for complete election results from across the country.