As I'm sure I mentioned sometime before, I'm not at all a fan of the Politico, as I think far too much of what they do is the complete embodiment of all that is wrong with political journalism. Of course, that won't keep me from getting myself in there if given the opportunity. They solicited some comments from NC Political Scientists on yesterday's primary (here), so I thought I might as well re-purpose my comments for a blog entry (I do like them). From the Politico:
The winner of the North Carolina Democratic Senate primary? Incumbent
Republican Richard Burr. Burr already had to be feeling good, though, before a vote was cast
today. Despite Burr looking very vulnerable upon Elizabeth Dole's
surprising defeat in 2008, the strong Republican trend for the 2010
midterms had already succeeded in scaring off the strongest challengers.
Instead, he faces the winner of what apparently will be a run-off
between a 1-term former State Senator, Cal Cunningham, and more
experienced, but little-known Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.
Despite pressure from national Democrats, several more prominent NC
Democrats declined to enter the race. Furthermore, instead of the
Democratic party being able to now unite behind a challenger to Burr,
there is the prospect of Marshall and Cunningham focusing their fire and
their resources on each other, instead of Burr for the next six weeks
until a run-off election. It is certainly possible that either
Cunningham or Marshall could defeat Burr, but you already had to
consider Burr a strong favorite, and tonight's results only further
strengthen his advantage.
I'll add here that this is a classic case of Gary Jacobson's strategic challenger's hypothesis (one of the things that made me decide I want to be a Political Science Professor). Basically, one of the biggest reason incumbents win is that the best, most qualified challengers only run against them when the political environment is in their favor. This has clearly been shaping up to be a very good GOP year, so the most qualified and most ambitious NC Democratic politicians have decided against taking on Burr in these circumstances. Sure, Cunningham or Marshall could pull a big upset, but presuming he wins, Burr won this race whey guys like Attorney General Roy Cooper and US House Representative Brad Miller decided they would not challenge him.
[On a semi-unrelated note, I'm really enjoying seeing my many former students essentially at war with each other-- though, not directly-- in facebook posts from many working for Cunningham and Marshall.]