WASHINGTON (CNN) - When North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper ruled out a run for the Senate last week, national Democrats lost their top choice to take on Republican incumbent Richard Burr in 2010.
But the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee still sees Burr as vulnerable, and several state Democrats have emerged as potential challengers in the wake of Cooper's decision. The Raleigh News and Observer even suggested Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, might jump into the ring.
Still, the DSCC - which is otherwise staying mum on the recruitment process - is taking four Democratic candidates seriously at the moment, according to a committee source.
Their top candidates are, in no particular order: Rep. Heath Shuler, the former NFL quarterback and second term congressman from western North Carolina's 11th district; Rep. Bob Etheridge from the Raleigh-area second district; former state Treasurer Richard Moore, who lost in the state's Democratic gubernatorial primary last year; and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton.
Also considering a run is former state senator Cal Cunningham, a 35-year old lawyer and Army reservist who just returned from Iraq and has been traveling the state meeting with party members. Cunningham told CNN he's "been talking to a lot of friends and fellow Democrats about returning to public service, and I've been getting positive encouragement."
Cunningham said he's "talked to folks in Washington, and we'll expect those conversations to continue."
Along with North Carolina, the DSCC sees Republican senate seats in Louisiana and Kentucky as possible pick-ups in the next cycle.