Can Clay Aiken survive elimination?

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Former American Idol star Clay Aiken may be singing the blues Wednesday morning.

The singer-turned-politician is facing a tough primary for the right to face Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.). He's been outspent on the airwaves by self-funding businessman Keith Crisco (D), and some Democrats in the state expect Crisco to prevail in Tuesday's primary.

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A third Democrat, mental health counselor Toni Morris, is also running, but strategists don't believe she'll draw enough support to keep the eventual winner below the 40 percent threshold he'll need to win the primary.

Crisco, a former state commerce secretary, raised more than $250,000 and loaned his campaign another half-million dollars for the race, while Aiken raised less than $300,000 total. 

That cash edge let Crisco go up early on TV. He has been running ads for weeks touting his biography, while Aiken took much longer to get on the air.

As soon as the Idol runner-up did, Crisco launched an attack accusing him of skipping meetings for the board of the President's Committee for People With Intellectual Disabilities, which he served on during President George W. Bush's presidency. Aiken didn't raise enough in his abbreviated campaign to run multiple ads, so he's stuck with positive spots ahead of the primary and hasn't had a chance to hit back.

"I've been pleasantly surprised by the candidate quality of Clay Aiken… But Keith Crisco has had more ads longer and he's also run negative on Aiken," said one unaffiliated North Carolina Democratic strategist. "Crisco is the favorite. He self-funded a lot."

Sources underscore that it's hard to predict a low-turnout primary, however.

Whoever wins still faces a steep uphill race against Ellmers in a district Mitt Romney carried by 15 points.