Race of the Day: Hays vs. Hill in Arkansas

Image: French Hill, Kevin McCarthy
Arkansas Republican Congressional candidate French Hill, right, speaks at Welspun Tubular, which has more than 350 miles of pipe awaiting the Keystone XL oil pipeline project in Little Rock, Ark., as U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Cal., listens Wednesday, Aug.20, 2014. McCarthy is calling for the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward as he kicks off a series of campaign visits for congressional hopefuls in Arkansas. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)Danny Johnston / AP

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Editor's Note: There are just 68 days until Election Day, and the NBC News political unit each day will profile the most competitive races this midterm season.

Despite the overall political environment and Arkansas’ reddish hue, Democrats are bullish about candidate Patrick Henry Hays, the former six-term mayor of North Little Rock, in this Republican-leaning district. Hays is facing off in this open seat race against banker French Hill, who has also served as an adviser to President George H.W. Bush and to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Republican Rep. Tim Griffin previously held this seat for two terms but stepped down to run for lieutenant governor. While the district leans toward the GOP, it’s the best pickup opportunity in the state for Democrats; Romney won the area with 55%in 2012, while McCain got about 54% of the vote in 2008.