A shift among black voters has allowed Elaine Marshall to expand her lead in the closing days of the North Carolina Democratic Senate primary, but with 33% of voters still undecided it remains unclear who will come out ahead on Tuesday night.
Marshall leads Cal Cunningham 28-21, a week after she led 26-23. Marshall is now up 21-12 with black voters, a turnaround after Cunningham had led the previous three polls in that demographic including a 19-13 advantage in last week's survey. Cunningham has been under attack by the leading African American candidate in the race, Kenneth Lewis, and whether the change in the last seven days is because of that or Marshall going on the air with television advertisements it's made a difference in the race.
The news isn't all bad for Cunningham though. 70% of his voters are firmly committed to him, compared to 60% of Marshall's who say the same of her. In what's likely to be a very low turnout race having the most passionate supporters could really make a difference. Also, the largest amount of undecided voters are in the greater Charlotte area where Cunningham is running television ads and Marshall is not.
It continues to be clear that this is a two person race. Lewis leads the second tier contenders with 9%, followed by Marcus Williams at 4%, Ann Worthy at 3%, and Susan Harris at 2%.
There continues to be a very strong chance of a runoff election. If the undecideds make up their minds in proportion to their current preferences Marshall would lead Cunningham 42-32, but there's no guarantee that will happen and either way it wouldn't take much for 42% to slip down to 39%. Among voters who are firmly committed Marshall leads Cunningham 41-36, putting her even more perilously close to dropping below the 40% mark. The biggest suspense on Tuesday night may not be about who's in the lead, but about whether that leader can inch over 40.
And how would things shake out in a runoff? Marshall would begin as the favorite, leading Cunningham 43-32. Kenneth Lewis' supporters say they would go for her by a 47-32 margin in such a contest.
Although Tuesday's primary hasn't drawn anywhere near the attention the 2008 one did with contests for President, Governor, and the Senate it may provide something that election night didn't- drama. The polling was lopsided enough that it was clear what the results of all those races would be well before the polls closed. That's not the case this time around.
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