As we noted before, there's been a lot written lately about the 11th Congressional District and why it went for Shuler. I think Shuler's victory isn't too surprising when you consider the nature of his district.
Despite the influence of Asheville, the 11th Congressional District is not overwhelmingly Democratic--at least compared to the rest of the state. As you can see below, Shuler's district has the 9th highest percentage of registered Democrats in the state. Given this, I doubt a liberal Democrat would do very well.
If we don't have that many Democrats, then why did Shuler do so well? I believe the answer may lie in the independents. We have the second most independents of any district in the state (see below). If we assume that independents are moderates, then a candidate like Shuler should do fairly well among the independent vote.
So what else stands out about the 11th Congressional District? The obvious answer is race. The 11th is the whitest district in the state--over 90% of registered voters in NC-11 are white.
A lot of things could eventually lead to a Shuler defeat, but the demographics of this district look fairly well matched to Shuler winning for the foreseeable future.