Pittenger has represented the 9th Congressional District since Rep. Sue Myrick's retirement in 2012. In 2016, he was challenged by Baptist preacher Mark Harris in the Republican primary. Harris came within 135 votes of beating him. Harris has already announced he'll be challenging Pittenger again in 2018, and there's every likelihood he'll beat Pittenger this time.
Pittenger's seat had already been targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and it looks as though solar energy financier and Marine veteran Dan McCready is the DCCC pick (although there are a couple of other Democrats in the race, including the man who lost to Pittenger in the general election of 2016).
The Karl Rove appearance looks like flop sweat to Erik Spanberg. He writes, "A Republican insider told me Tuesday that, while Rove remains a reliable draw for GOP donors, he also represents the anti-Trump wing of the party. He makes it hard for Pittenger to say, ‘I’m a Trump Republican’ because Rove has been so critical of President Trump.”
If Pittenger makes it through the primary with Harris, he's going to be potentially damaged goods in the general elections of 2018.