There's been a lot of discussion about the involvement of national Democrats in the North Carolina Senate primary and whether Elaine Marshall's first place finish last week indicated voters were sending Washington a message to mind its own business.
Anyone touting that line of thought is giving voters way too much credit. On our first poll for the runoff we asked voters which candidate they thought was the preferred choice of national Democratic leaders. 33% thought it was Cal Cunningham, 32% thought it was Elaine Marshall, and 36% didn't even offer a guess. Clearly the whole DSCC drama is not something anyone outside of the political chattering class has been paying much attention to.
That should come as no surprise. Keep in mind that our second to last primary poll found fewer than half of voters knew Marshall was the Secretary of State, and that less than a third knew Cunningham had served in Iraq. If they don't know the most basic of facts about the candidates it should come as no surprise that they don't know all the insider politics of the race.
It also turns out that the perception of national backing is far from a bad thing for the candidates. Voters who think Cunningham is the preferred choice of the national leaders are planning to vote for him 82-12 in the runoff. Ones who think Marshall is the anointed one are supporting her by a 74-11 margin.
So voters a) aren't aware that Cunningham is the DSCC preferred candidate and b) are inclined to support the candidate they do think has national backing. Cunningham's performance may have been a defeat for the DSCC, but it certainly wasn't an indication of backlash against it.
We'll have our first runoff poll out tomorrow.