Bob Etheridge is the nominal early front runner in the North Carolina Democratic primary for Governor. He leads six different permutations of the field we looked at by margins ranging anywhere from 3-8 points.
Among just the candidates currently announced Etheridge is at 30% to 24% for Walter Dalton and 6% for Bill Faison. On a question including every big name currently considering the race Etheridge gets 21% to 13% for Dan Blue, 10% for Dalton, 8% for Brad Miller, 7% for Richard Moore, 6% for Mike McIntyre, and 2% for Faison.
Etheridge's early success is being driven by regional strength in the Triangle and down east. In the announced candidate field he leads Dalton 42-20 in the Triangle, 35-16 in southeastern North Carolina, and 34-12 in northeastern North Carolina. Etheridge is also unusually strong with men, leading 36-24.
We also tested four different versions of the field that included Dalton, Etheridge, and Faison and then one each out of Blue, McIntyre, Miller, and Moore. Etheridge and Dalton finish 1-2 in all of these configurations, making it clear that if anyone else enters they'll start out in third place. Those numbers are:
-Etheridge 24, Dalton 20, Blue 11, Faison 4
-Etheridge 25, Dalton 22, McIntyre 7, Faison 6
-Etheridge 24, Dalton 20, Miller 11, Faison 4
-Etheridge 24, Dalton 21, Moore 8, Faison 5
This race still has to be seen as pretty wide open. None of the candidates have greater than 50% name recognition. Etheridge is the best known at 50%, followed by Miller and Dalton at 41%, Blue and Moore at 40%, McIntyre at 31%, and Faison at 29%. The state of the race could change quite a bit as voters become more familiar with the candidates.
There are also a lot of undecideds in all these match ups. In every scenario we tested except the one that included all seven candidates, 39-41% of voters said they didn't know who they would pick yet.
Etheridge is the early favorite to the extent there is one, but a lot can change in the next 3 months.
Full results here