A reporter asked me this afternoon if Elaine Marshall's candidacy announcement transformed the North Carolina Senate race.
Well honestly, no.
Even after 13 years in statewide office our polling in March found that just 28% of North Carolina voters have a favorable opinion of Marshall. She is largely unknown, as are the rest of the Democrats looking at the race.
When Roy Cooper decided not to run that was basically the end of the possibility of Richard Burr losing because voters liked someone more than him. The race at this point is going to be determined by whether Democrats can get more people to decide they don't like Burr than Republicans can get to decide they don't like Barack Obama. It will be a race about what people don't like rather than what they like. I don't think it matters that much who the Democratic nominee is, as long as they can raise some money and keep from doing anything stupid.
It was very much the same situation last year. Kay Hagan did a good job but there are probably two dozen other North Carolina Democrats who could have won that race too with the way the DSCC was able to destroy Elizabeth Dole.
Marshall did poll the best out of herself, Cal Cunningham, Kenneth Lewis, and Kevin Foy last month. But Richard Burr got the same 43% against all four of them. In the Senate numbers we'll be releasing on Friday including six potential contenders Burr got 43% against two of them, 42% against three of them, and 41% against one of them.
Given differences in name recognition for the Democratic possibilities the number they hold Burr to in polling at this point is more meaningful than their share, and there is basically no difference in Marshall, Cunningham, Lewis, Foy, Wicker, and Etheridge's early performance. From the standpoint of beating Burr it doesn't matter who the nominee is based on where the candidates start out with North Carolina voters.
What's the bottom line? If Marshall proves to be a superior fundraiser to whoever else ends up getting in, then she'll probably win the nomination. If Wicker or Etheridge runs she won't be the superior fundraiser but if neither of them do she most likely will be. At the end of the day it doesn't matter- if voters dislike Richard Burr more than Barack Obama any of these Democrats have a good chance to win. And if Obama has a bad approval rating in the state, none of the Democrats is going to win. So it's good for Democrats that Marshall is in because she fits the profile of being able to raise some money and keep from making a fool of herself, but I don't think it changes the chances of Burr losing one way or the other.