Liddy Dole: an untested campaigner
Elizabeth Dole is up against Kay Hagan, fighting for her second term. It's not going to be the easiest race for the Democrats this year, but it's one that's in striking range. Elizabeth Dole does carry a certain amount of gravitas, but that's more due to her more famous husband, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee, than her own record. She did run the Red Cross adequately, and did some pro-seatbelt commercials back in the early 1980s. I remember those commercials, and they're probably responsible for my having adopted the seatbelt habit at age twelve or so, which saved my life in a car crash when I was fifteen. However, Elizabeth Dole, for all the good she did back in the 1980s, has had a lackluster career since, and could very well be unemployed early next year. Seeing how she's roughly John McCain's age, that sounds like a desirable course for her to take.
Her presidential campaign in 2000 failed early and hard. In 2002 she went after Jesse Helms' seat, which Helms was vacating. She was challenged by Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, Erskine Bowles. A couple of factors worked against Bowles: 1) 2002 was a bad year for Democrats and 2) North Carolina and Utah spent that year fighting over who was going to pick up another seat in Congress because of population changes in the last census. North Carolina eventually won that fight, but the result was that the North Carolina primaries had to be delayed. Dole had only token opposition while Bowles was up against state Democratic Leader Dan Blue, and the prolonged primary contest allowed Dole to get it together while Bowles and Blue tore each other apart. I wouldn't say that Bowles would necessarily have won that election in better conditions, but it sure didn't test Dole very well.
Now Dole's a one-term incumbent, facing a tough challenger in a year that's not as good for Republicans as 2002 was. She's still leading Hagan in the polls, but this thing ain't over. Dole's crashing failure as the lead recruiter of Republican candidates during the 2006 elections, when the Republicans lost six Senate seats and picked up exactly zero, hasn't earned her a lot of good will from her Republican colleagues. They aren't willing to come 'round and try to put lipstick on *that* pig.