Tomorrow night when the results of the North Carolina Democratic Senate runoff are in there's going to be temptation to declare that either:
A) If Elaine Marshall wins, it was voters sending a message to Washington that we're going to pick our own candidates and not just support who the national Democratic establishment wants us to
B) If Cal Cunningham wins it's a big victory for the DSCC and the Obama administration, signaling that voters aren't that unhappy with the establishment right now.
Neither of those interpretations would be very correct. The reality is that only politicos and journalists have paid much attention to the parlor games about Washington's role in the North Carolina Democratic Senate primary. Last month we asked Democratic voters if they knew whether Cunningham or Marshall was the candidate with the support of national Democrats- 33% thought it was Cunningham, 32% thought it was Marshall, and 35% didn't even offer a guess. This aspect of the race is not something real voters have been particularly tuned into.
And the perception of national support certainly wasn't a negative for either candidate. Voters who thought Marshall was the choice of national Democrats supported her 74-11. Ones who thought Cunningham was their preference supported him 82-12. The fact that voters were generally planning to support the person they thought was the establishment candidate doesn't much lend itself to tomorrow night's results being much of a referendum on national Democratic involvement in the race one way or the other.