If America could vote for Clay Aiken, he might have a shot at coming to Congress. Unfortunately for him, he’s running in rural North Carolina.

Aiken, the 2003 “American Idol” runner-up, announced Wednesday that he’ll run as a Democrat against Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) in a heavily Republican district in North the state’s Piedmont region.

His fame and folksy ease on camera might help Aiken raise substantial money for the race. But strategists in both parties say it’s highly unlikely he’ll be singing his way to Congress — and that any Democrat would be a long shot against Ellmers.

“If he thought the final vote on ‘American Idol’ was disappointing, just wait until November,” said Republican strategist Brad Todd, who’s worked on a number of North Carolina races. “Clay Aiken can read music. Maybe he should read some poll numbers … a brief bump in iTunes sales isn’t worth getting your butt kicked.”

For once, even Democrats privately agree with their GOP counterparts. 

“It’s damn near criminal that his consultants are doing this as a congratulatory method and as a way to make money,” said one Democratic strategist who’s worked extensively in North Carolina. “It’s a remarkably difficult district, and it’s naive to think that name ID and national fame will translate there. TMZ cred doesn’t translate to winning a congressional election.”

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney carried the district by 16 points in 2012, making it more Republican than all but one of the congressional districts, where Democrats have an incumbent running for reelection. President Obama’s numbers have also deteriorated in North Carolina since he lost the state by 1 point in 2012: His approval rating has hovered around 40 percent in recent polling.

Aiken himself seemed to acknowledge the tough road ahead in his introductory campaign video, de-emphasizing his fame, repeatedly mentioning his Christian faith and work as a special education teacher, and painting himself as someone looking to work across the aisle.

“I’m a Democrat, but it was when I was appointed by President Bush to serve on a special presidential commission to address the educational challenges of children with special needs, that was when I first realized that our problems won’t be solved by only one party or the other. Instead, it’s going to require all of us,” he said in the video.

Ellmers, in a recent radio interview with WRAL, mocked Aiken.

“Apparently his performing career is not going so well, and he’s very bored,” Ellmers said earlier this week. “As we know, he didn’t really fare all that well [on ‘American Idol’]. He was runner-up.”


Aiken has also taken liberal stances on some issues. The openly gay singer has campaigned to legalize gay marriage, which was banned by a wide margin in a 2012 statewide referendum. He’s also called former President Carter a personal hero, which is unlikely to play well in the conservative district.