As mentioned earlier, the reason most of the Democrats we tested are down by huge margins to Pat McCrory is because voters are less aware of them than they are of McCrory, who was mayor for 14 years of the largest city in the state and was the GOP nominee for governor just 4 years ago. But there are areas where some of these figures are far better known than they are statewide, not to mention better liked, namely the areas they have served in Congress, the state legislature, or as mayors. And in those areas, they would do significantly better against McCrory than they do statewide, with a few notable exceptions.
But the bottom line remains that Erskine Bowles would still be the strongest foe for McCrory. He is the only one who outperforms the generic-ballot preferences of voters in the crucial, growing Triangle area. Those in the 919 area code prefer a Democrat be the next governor by a 49-45 margin, and Bowles tops McCrory 49-41 there. The others lag by three to 20 points. Bowles also by far outpaces the field in the area he makes his home, the booming Charlotte metro area, outdoing even beloved current mayor Anthony Foxx. Bowles lags McCrory only 46-43 in the 704 area code, but the others trail by 12 to 29 points.
Below the fold, an indication how a few of the Democrats we polled might fare if the entire state got to know them as well as their constituents do:
Former 2nd-district Congressman and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bob Etheridge has 82% name identification in the Triangle (versus 52% statewide), though he isn't any better liked there than elsewhere, with a 40-42 favorability spread versus 25-27 across the state. But he trails McCrory only 51-46 in the 919.
Retiring Congressman Brad Miller has 72% name recognition in the Triangle (46%), with a 42-30 favorability rating (22-24), and trails only 46-43 there.
Former Raleigh mayor Charles Meeker has 70% name recognition in the Triangle (39%), with a 40-30 favorability spread (17-22), and trails only 46-41 there.
Former State Treasurer and Public Safety Commissioner Richard Moore served the northern ancillary parts of the Triangle in the state legislature. He has 60% name identification (43%) and a 33-27 favorability rating (23-20), and trails only 46-42 in the region.
Congressman Mike McIntyre has 57% name recognition in the Southeast, with an enormous 41-16 favorability spread, and beats McCrory by 32 points (59-27) there. The caveat is that all the Democrats win by large margins in the 910 area code. It's traditionally been the base of the party's statewide candidates' wins, along with the Triangle. Though McIntyre certainly does the best in that region of all the 13 candidates tested, and he outpaces the desire for a generic Democrat by six points.
By contrast, Congressman Heath Shuler is liked less where they know him best, the 828 area code, than anywhere else in the state, with a 32-42 favorability margin, versus 21-23 as a whole. Though Shuler does trail by only 10 points there (46-36), versus 17 statewide.
Also, while Foxx is beloved in the Charlotte area, with a 55-29 favorability rating to McCrory's 51-40, he still trails his predecessor by 12 points (53-41), not a good base for a statewide run.
Voters who do have an opinion on Bowles, favorable or unfavorable, would favor him 47-46 over McCrory. Still, the road goes both ways, and McCrory also benefits if voters get to know him better. Among those with opinions on both Bowles and McCrory personally, whether positive or negative, McCrory's lead grows to 50-44. Among those who like them both, McCrory leads, 49-42. Among those who dislike them both, McCrory has a smaller lead, 43-39.
So right now, McCrory retains the edge, even against the strongest Democrat. But Bowles would have the potential to bring in a lot of money from across the country to quickly make this a race, an edge most of the other Democrats would not have, except maybe Miller, and to some extent Foxx, Etheridge, McIntyre, and Shuler.