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Etheridge Won’t Run Against Burr

Updated: 3:52 p.m.

North Carolina Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) has decided to pass, for a second time, on the opportunity to take on Sen. Richard Burr (R) next year and instead will seek re-election in 2010.

In a statement, the Congressman indicated it would be hard to leave his perch on the Ways and Means Committee and said he looked forward to working with the party’s nominee to defeat Burr.

“Ultimately, I believe that I can best help the people of North Carolina during this economic downturn by remaining in the House of Representatives and continuing to serve as North Carolina’s only member of the House Ways and Means Committee,— Etheridge said.

“As I seek re-election to Congress, I look forward to sharing victory with our Democratic Senatorial candidate and working with our new Senator to improve the economy and create jobs for the working families of this great state.—

The news is the latest, and maybe the biggest, recruiting setback for Democrats in a state that party officials had hoped would be a top pickup opportunity next year.

Three Democratic candidates, including North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, have already filed to run against Burr, but it’s no secret that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was aggressively recruiting Etheridge. Earlier this cycle, Etheridge decided to pass on the Senate race, but the DSCC’s continued efforts to recruit the Congressman made him take a second look.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee wasted little time in highlighting the recruiting setback.

“The Democrats’ continued setbacks in North Carolina leave a major hole in their recruiting class,— NRSC spokesman Colin Reed said. “It’s clear that experienced Democrat officials on the ground in North Carolina have a much different view of this race than party officials in Washington.—

Etheridge’s decision comes just days after former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) said he was no longer considering a Senate bid, but it’s likely that national Democratic officials will try to pressure him to reconsider now that they lack a top prospect.

Cunningham, who is popular among progressives in the Tar Heel State, had been quietly putting together a campaign organization in recent months and had thanked the DSCC for their help in that effort in his announcement Tuesday.

“Aside from Sen. John Ensign [R-Nev.], Sen. Burr has the lowest approval rating of any Republican in the United States Senate,— DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz said Friday afternoon. “That’s because he is beholden to the special interests in Washington. He will face a formidable opponent next November.—

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