The Liberal Netroots Reboots in North Carolina

The liberal netroots was dealt a big blow last week with the defeat of Bill Halter in the Arkansas Senate primary against Sen. Blanche Lincoln. But the activist left is now trying to regroup and is now rallying behind another Democratic Senate prospect who’s challenging the party establishment. On Tuesday, came out in support North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who’s running against former state Rep. Cal Cunningham in the Democratic primary to challenge Sen. Richard Burr (R-SC).

The MoveOn endorsement marks the culmination of the national netroots support that’s coalesced behind Marshall, whose supporters include Howard Dean’s Democracy for America and ActBlue, which has raised over $45,000 in grassroots donations for her campaign. Marshall bested Cunningham by 9 points in the May 5 primary but didn’t break 40 percent of the vote, forcing a run-off that will be held next Tuesday. The pick of the Democratic National Committee, Cunningham has raised almost twice as much money as Marshall, heavily bolstered by nearly $80,000 from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But Marshall has tried to use her outsider status to her advantage, painting herself as an unabashed progressive who’s running against the Beltway status quo.

But when it comes down to it, there’s not much to differentiate the two candidates in terms of policy views. In a televised debate last week, they “mirrored each other’s positions on offshore drilling (they oppose it), the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy governing gays in the military (they want to repeal it) and even used similar language on illegal immigration (“we cannot deport our way” out of the problem, they said.),” as Politico reports. And either candidate would face an uphill battle to unseat Burr, whose favorability ratings remain low but still leads both Democratic prospects by double digits. The main difference seems to be between who’s received the blessing of the party establishment and who hasn’t. The liberal netroots has made it clear which side they’re going to take.


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  • Suzy Khimm was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones from March 2010 until June 2011. For more of her stories, click here. Follow her on Twitter here.