Bob Etheridge is the latest potential Democratic Senate candidate in North Carolina and we will get him included on our next poll.
Etheridge has some definite strong points, namely that he been a consistent winner in a district that on balance leans Republican at the Presidential level. He has won a Congressional election against a GOP incumbent before, just as he will have to do if he challenges Richard Burr. I think he could wage a pretty effective populist campaign that would create some strong contrasts with the incumbent.
There are some negatives too. Voters don't like Washington right now and he can't run as an outsider (he's been there for 16 years and I've only been there for 14 years doesn't quite work!). A rural candidate may not be able to get Democratic voters fired up in the urban centers where they have to rack up the vote to win statewide. And most importantly it would set up a competitive House race.
If Etheridge does run there is no doubt who Democrats should recruit to go for his House seat- former Treasurer Richard Moore. He may not have done too well in the primary for Governor last year, but a lot of Democrats have buyer's remorse now on that front, and he sets up well for the district. He was actually the nominee in 1994 but given that David Price managed to lose that year as well it's hard to really hold that loss against Moore.
Etheridge's biggest plus from a logistical stand point is that he has a lot more money on hand than anyone else eying the race, and he's in a position to be able to raise more of it better than any of the other folks on the table. With national Democrats now having to defend seats in places like Connecticut, Illinois, and Pennsylvania having a candidate who doesn't need as much national fundraising help would be a definite plus.
If Etheridge gets in it's probably game over for the nomination. It's hard to see anyone else looking at the race getting the sort of financial backing they would need to be competitive with him in a primary. It'll be interesting to see how this develops.