Will Clay Aiken be a winner, or a runner up again?

Which is more agonizing to wait for: "American Idol" results or election outcomes?

Clay Aiken, the 2002 "American Idol" runner up and current congressional candidate will eventually find out as he awaits word on whether or not he will be able to challenge Republican incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., this November.

The Democratic primary in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District is still too close to call, with both Aiken and textile entrepreneur Keith Crisco both claiming about 40 percent of the vote.

Aiken has a slim, 369-vote lead and 40.8 percent of the vote, which is enough to avoid a runoff if he is declared the winner. Right now, he's is outside of the 1-percent margin that would trigger a recount. Crisco, has 39.5 percent of the vote.

By Tuesday, the nine counties that fall at least partially within 2nd District will have concluded a certification of results that includes provisional and absentee ballots. The State Board of Elections will have to certify those results, board spokesman Josh Lawson said, but historically they have accepted county-level certifications.

If the new votes coming in push Aiken's margin of victory within one percent, Crisco will have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to request a recount. He hasn't give up hope yet.

"This election is still very tight," Crisco said in a statement. "I want the elections officials to have an opportunity to tally the votes and provide a report on their canvass activities to allow all the campaigns a chance to see the final numbers. This has been a great campaign and I am very appreciative of my supporters and the hard work that the county boards of elections are doing at this time."

Aiken formally announced his bid in February after weeks of exploration and conversations with Democratic officials. He highlighted his hardscrabble upbringing in the district -- which lies between the cities of Greensboro, Raleigh and Fayetteville - and told voters that his star turn on the popular singing show in 2002 was a far cry from his childhood with a single mother who'd fled his abusive father.

"I've been fortunate in my life. And if you only know the part of my story that begins with the golden ticket, something that still seems unbelievable to me even to this day, you might wonder what would qualify me to run," he said in a video announcing his candidacy.

Both Aiken and Crisco ran as centrists in the heavily Republican district, although the Raleigh News-Observer reports that Crisco had closer ties North Carolina's Democratic Party establishment, having served as Commerce Secretary under former Gov. Bev Perdue. He was also endorsed by many state government officials, city and county politicians. Aiken, by contrast, campaigned as the fresh face who could shake up partisan politics in Washington, the News-Observer reported, and was backed by veteran Democratic figures, labor, teacher and civil justice PACs.

Crisco, relying on his own personal wealth from the textile industry, outspent Aiken by more than 3-to-1, the News-Observer reported. Aiken received far more attention from national media, although he was buried at home by TV ads, direct mail pieces and signage from the Crisco campaign.

The Republican incumbent, Ellmers, was first elected in the 2010 tea party wave. She handily defeated her challenger in the Republican primary.

Ellmers was last re-elected with 56 percent of the vote in 2012, and her district tilts strongly to the right.

"This district would be difficult for any Democrat to win," explained CBS News Election Director Anthony Salvanto. "It's a heavily Republican district. President Obama got just 42 percent of the vote there in 2012."

More primaries next Tuesday: Nebraska and West Virginia voters head to the polls Tuesday with primary season in full swing. As in this past Tuesday's primary contest for North Carolina's Senate, the races have drawn a flurry of outside spending and endorsements that at times have pitted the more conservative wing of the party against members of the Republican establishment.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly $2 million has poured into Nebraska's relatively cheap media market to support front-runners Ben Sasse, the former president of Midland University, and Shane Osborn, the former state treasurer, the two lawmakers running to replace retiring Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb. He has not endorsed a successor, but did bemoan the slew of negative ads that have run in the state in a conference call with reporters Thursday, according to the Nebraska Watchdog.

Sasse has collected endorsements from Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, along with the support of outside groups like Freedomworks, Tea Party Patriots and the Senate Conservatives Fund. Osborn, on the other hand, has support from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Speaking of McConnell: Although McConnell won't face his primary challenger, businessman Matt Bevin, until May 20, he and expected Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes are already battling it out ahead of the November general elections. Grimes released her first campaign ad, "Lost in Battle," on Thursday. It highlights a law she helped push for in her current role as Kentucky's secretary of state that makes it easier for overseas troops to vote.

McConnell has been airing ads all year, partially because Bevin has drawn a lot of attention and support from the tea party wing of the GOP. Still, McConnell is expected to defeat Bevin and, in the meantime, continue focusing on Grimes. His latest ad touted instances where has helped to save Kentuckians' jobs, which was an effort to save face after the Beattyville Enterprise, a small Kentucky newspaper, reported that he said local economic development was "not my job."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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