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NC-Sen: Democrats get Cunningham

Iraq war veteran and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) will challenge Richard Burr (R) in 2010, reversing his earlier decision to opt out of the race and giving national Democrats a candidate they believe can oust the freshman North Carolina senator.

Cunningham is expected to make his intentions official early next week, according to informed sources, and will join a Democratic primary field that already includes Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and attorney Ken Lewis.

After months of weighing a bid, Cunningham took himself out of consideration just a few weeks ago as it seemed clear that Rep. Bob Etheridge would -- finally -- seek the seat. (Etheridge has been rumored as a Senate candidate forever.) But, Etheridge took a pass and national Democrats immediately re-focused their attention on Cunningham whose profile they believe is the right one to take advantage of a softness in Burr's numbers.

First elected in 2004 over former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, Burr has largely stayed in the background of the Senate and his poll numbers reflect that status with many voters having little sense of him and his accomplishments.

That said, Democrats struggled mightily to find a serious candidate to challenge him with state Attorney General Roy Cooper and Etheridge shying away from the contest.

Democrats are hoping that Cunningham's candidate arc mirrors that of now Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.). Like Cunningham, Hagan was a state legislator who initially turned down the chance to challenge a sitting Republican Senator before changing her mind. Hagan went on to defeat Sen. Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) easily in 2008.

The comparison extends only so far, however. Dole had done little to mind the store in the Tar Heel State and she proved an inflexible and ineffectual campaigner running in a very difficult year to be a Republican.

Burr, likely alarmed by Dole's loss, is paying far closer attention to the state and has the benefit of running in what is shaping up to be a far better national political environment for Republicans.

Still, assuming Cunningham has secured commitments from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for fundraising help and independent expenditure spending, this is a race that is likely to come down to the wire -- an improvement on where national Democrats stood in the state just a few weeks ago.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 3, 2009; 2:45 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

You can bet NC voters will take a good look at the handsome Iraqi vet. His Bronze Star Medal and the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award outshine the lackluster record of former frat boy Burr.

Posted by: oldmagnolia | December 8, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

What I do not understand is the political calulus behind this strategy. It truly does appear that the Republicans are simply the Party of No. If they had a meaningful vision of what health care reform should look like, then why don't they offer it?

==

Oh, but they do have a plan: trust in the marketplace. Matter of fact that's their plan for just about everything. Trust the markets. They believe that markets are infallible, that whatever the "marketplace decides" is by definition the best of all possible worlds, and if that leaves children dying of ailmnents not seen since the Middle Ages, why, the marketplace has spoken and it CAN'T be wrong it's simply IMPOSSIBLE.

I think people with supernatural beliefs like that belong under inpatient psychiatric care, preferrably medicated to insensibility.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 4, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

@margaretmeyers: Your point is well taken, but if falls on death ears. Opponents of health care reform (or perhaps they are simply just opponents of Democrats in general an the president in particular) will make arguments from both sides. Either the reform will cost so much that small businesses won't be able to afford it (or start up at all) or that to save costs businesses that do insure their employees will drop it, so people will lose insurance. It seems that most opponents simply do not want any meaningful political victory for the Democrats.

What I do not understand is the political calulus behind this strategy. It truly does appear that the Republicans are simply the Party of No. If they had a meaningful vision of what health care reform should look like, then why don't they offer it? I think it would be smarter to be on board with the idea of health care and try to include ideas that are reasonable and dear to conservatves (e.g. tort reform)and to make the strongest possible program that benefits the country. Not only does the country benefit, but it demonstrates that Republicans have ideas that help the country. It would help them regain some badly lost credibility in the eyes of the general public. Right now, with very few exceptions, the R strategy appears to be to oppose everything, hope the president fails, and they say "See, we told you the Dems ____(insert your choice of adjective)." And this does not even begin to address the far right wing of the R party.

Time to go to work. Hope you all had a happy and safe turkey day and best wishes for the holiday season.
TREP

Posted by: trep1 | December 4, 2009 7:03 AM | Report abuse

mpecot @754, I have three neighbors who have all been out-sourced from their airline/university/new station jobs. They all still contract with their old employers, they just don't get any bennies. That's that market forces miracle we heard about.

In their 50s they have all had to go looking for private health insurance, at the cost of 17 to 20 K a year. Now, in your 50s, what are you supposed to be doing with that kind of money? I'd say putting kids through college, or saving money for their retirements or plowing it back into their new businesses. But they can't do that because they are spending over 3 times as much for health insurance as I do -- a federal employee who benefits from a large risk pool, cost analysis and true open-market competition among the insurers.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | December 4, 2009 6:14 AM | Report abuse

Burr's problem has less to do with the fact that he hasn't done anything and more to do with the fact that he ran as a moderate and has voted pretty solidly down the GOP line.
I think he would do well to come out as a moderate on something like the Climate change bill that Graham and Kerry have constructed, or join Snowe on pushing for a trigger in healthcare (less likely I think). That would give him the moderate credentials that he will need to fight off a Democratic challenger, whomever that may be.

Posted by: AndyR3 | December 4, 2009 1:59 AM | Report abuse

Atmospheric physics might take a few years.

==

Try "forever."

I don't think this one could ever come to grasp the idea of an absorption spectrum. I don't mean the mechanism, the binding energy and excited states, I mean the basic concept itself.

Yet he knows that global warming is fake science, and with such conviction!

Armpeg believes it's a plot to set up a totalitarian world government.

And you think I should stop caricaturing these guys.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 4, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse

And, O:

* obsessively hates Barack Obama

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 4, 2009 12:07 AM | Report abuse

The new 37th:

* does the same post over and over

* issues the exact same post in multiple threads

* posts constantly, doing a large percentage of the posts in any thread he's in

* is given to the copious use of all-caps in awkward and inappropriate places

* sneer-quotes a lot

Remind you of anyone who stopped posting recently?

Did you really think he's leave?

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 4, 2009 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Whoops! Wait, not way.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 3, 2009 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Until 37th understands punctuation and grammar, I think we can safely say that economics should way. Atmospheric physics might take a few years.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 3, 2009 11:51 PM | Report abuse

TOMHERE. my thoughts exactly.

Posted by: donaldtucker | December 3, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

First, I have cut and pasted 3 posts from earlier comments that deserve re-posting..they will follow my comment.

We in NC appreciate the concern of the National Democrats and we WILL need your money, but frankly, I think you need to let NC Democrats choose their candidate and THEN you can get behind him or HER.

Thanks but no thanks on choosing our candidate for us, k?

"Public Policy Polling has a primary poll out that has Elaine at 42%, Ken Lewis at 7%, and Cal at 5%. They are supposedly choosing someone polling at 5%?
Last year Elaine received the second highest number of votes in NC history, next to Roy Cooper in last years election. No Respect, yea Elaine certainly gets no respect from the folks in DC, but you know what, that doesn't matter because it's not DC that votes, its NC voters. And you know what, they like Elaine. She does her job well and has no real negatives.
I hate to ponder this but I do, does the DSCC believe it needs white male to go against Burr. First Roy, Health, Bob, now apparently Cal. Over a well qualified woman who was polling at the exact number Etheridge was polling at against Burr. (Cal by the way was polling less than Elaine in these polls.)"
Posted by: Palmerk December 3, 2009 5:13PM

"Why were the Dems so keen on having someone other than Marshall? She's been elected statewide in 96, 00, 04, 08. Given the size of NC, winning statewide and winning is surely a healthy indicator when seeking a Senate seat. And yet the Dems showed no interest ..."
Posted by: JayPen December 3, 2009 5:01PM

"Chris, Since when has a one-term state senator that hasn’t held elected office in years, ever been considered a top-tier recruit for the DSCC?
Does the DSCC think that North Carolinians aren’t capable of electing 2 female U.S. Senators?
And lastly do you have a man-crush on Cunningham like apparently JB Poersch does?"
Posted by: ajsuited December 3, 2009 4:39PM

Posted by: nccoastal | December 3, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Math and percentages are for overeducated elitist liberals.

REAL men follow their gut. And Palin will be our next president, winning with 150% of the vote.

And GOD will step in and keep the radiation from making its way back here too.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 3, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

"(...)a far better national political environment for Republicans."
---
How is a 25% approval rating and a less than 20% of the voting populace willing to admit they are Republican a better national environment?

Posted by: JRM2 | December 3, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

"If you understand economics.

.
Posted by: 37thand0stree"
---
The only thing you seem to understand is your hatred for our President.

Posted by: JRM2 | December 3, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Let me clue you in on something - how much will the health care bill increase labor costs ??? THE HEALTH CARE BILL IS A DRAG ON HIRING.

Not that hard.


If you understand economics.
===================


Let me clue YOU in on something:

As a small business owner, I can assure you that health care costs are a real drag on business is the rising cost of health care. Imagine having to renegotiate every year with a supplier who raises their prices at 2x the rate of inflation EVERY year. For many businesses, the only way to make things work is to slash benefits for employees or drop health coverage, resulting in even more wasteful health spending (e.g., failure to get preventative care, using the hospital ER as a stand-in for a primary care physician, etc.). And as Americans spend MORE and MORE of their paycheck on health insurance (whether they buy it on the private market or through payroll deduction in employer contribution plans), they have LESS and LESS money to put into savings or buy from businesses like mine.

It's not that hard...if you understand economics.

Posted by: mpecot | December 3, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse


North Carolina went blue in 2008, and Burr is unpopular here. The same grassroots organization that helped hand victories to President Obama and Senator Kay Hagan is ramping up to defeat Burr.

Posted by: bamccampbell | December 3, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

"(...)a far better national political environment for Republicans."

In your dreams, Cilizza. Disenchantment with the Democratic party does not automatically translate into votes for the Republican party. The latter has too many demented people in its ranks to be attractive.

==

He writes that for the "some of the people all of the time" crowd, not for the rest of us.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 3, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

"(...)a far better national political environment for Republicans."

In your dreams, Cilizza. Disenchantment with the Democratic party does not automatically translate into votes for the Republican party. The latter has too many demented people in its ranks to be attractive.

Posted by: Gatsby10 | December 3, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

If you understand economics.

==

We have enough experience with Republican economics since "trickle down" and "market forces" to know that nothing you guys have to say about incentives and determinism is worth a pail of warm spit.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 3, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Those of us who vote in North Carolina are tired of rednecks like Helms and Burr. We need a progressive, aggressive young man to represent us.
Goodbye Senator Burr.....

Posted by: TOMHERE | December 3, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Let me clue you in on something - how much will the health care bill increase labor costs ??? THE HEALTH CARE BILL IS A DRAG ON HIRING.


Not that hard.


If you understand economics.

.

Posted by: 37thand0street | December 3, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Hate to be agest, but Marshall is 64. That's not ancient, but it is old to be running for the Senate for the first time. I can understand the party wanting a younger candidate.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | December 3, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Public Policy Polling has a primary poll out that has Elaine at 42%, Ken Lewis at 7%, and Cal at 5%. They are supposedly choosing someone polling at 5%?

Last year Elaine received the second highest number of votes in NC history, next to Roy Cooper in last years election. No Respect, yea Elaine certainly gets no respect from the folks in DC, but you know what, that doesn't matter because it's not DC that votes, its NC voters. And you know what, they like Elaine. She does her job well and has no real negatives.

I hate to ponder this but I do, does the DSCC believe it needs white male to go against Burr. First Roy, Health, Bob, now apparently Cal. Over a well qualified woman who was polling at the exact number Etheridge was polling at against Burr. (Cal by the way was polling less than Elaine in these polls.)

Posted by: Palmerk | December 3, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Why were the Dems so keen on having someone other than Marshall? She's been elected statewide in 96, 00, 04, 08. Given the size of NC, winning statewide and winning is surely a healthy indicator when seeking a Senate seat. And yet the Dems showed no interest ...

Posted by: JayPen | December 3, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Chris,

Since when has a one-term state senator that hasn’t held elected office in years, ever been considered a top-tier recruit for the DSCC?

Does the DSCC think that North Carolinians aren’t capable of electing 2 female U.S. Senators?

And lastly do you have a man-crush on Cunningham like apparently JB Poersch does?

Posted by: ajsuited | December 3, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I think Burr wins in the end, but forcing Republicans to defend this seat helps Dems in other key races, and in down-ticket races within NC in the run-up to the next elections. That's more important to the party as a whole in the long run.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | December 3, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

@jcbcmb68 - I got hit on something like that once. We have a bowling team named after a fighter aircraft. I was informed the week after I published the league standings that it's the Hellcat, not the Hell Cat.

Oops.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 3, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Not so sure Cunningham will have a very good shot next year, considering the ongoing investigation of former Gov. Mike Easley and the anger in some parts of the state toward Democrats, especially with job losses and the Obama administration's handling of the economy, Afghanistan, and health care. Burr may have a better shot at reelection because of the relative weakness of the Dems and not because of his own shortcomings.

Also, it's "Tar Heel state," not "Tarheel" -- always two words.

Posted by: jcbcmb68 | December 3, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Burr is a dullard and can be taken down by an aggressive challenger. Cunningham's military record will play well in NC.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | December 3, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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