By Kirk Ross
Jim Neal, a key Democratic Party fundraiser, is on the verge of announcing a run for U.S. Senate, sources close to Neal say.
Neal, a native of Greensboro who now lives in Chapel Hill, will head to Asheville this weekend for the Vance-Aycock Dinner, a traditional gathering of Democratic Party movers and shakers and a place where potential candidates often test the waters. He is expected to file official paperwork as early as this week.
Neal was a top fundraiser for the John Kerry and John Edwards ticket in 2004 and a major supporter of Gen. Wesley Clarkâ€™s bid for the Democratic nomination that year.
He is a former investment banker and is currently a financial advisor.
Dole, a one-term incumbent who has already announced for re-election, has been raising money in preparation for the race. A recent Elon Poll found that 53 percent of respondents indicated they are satisfied or very satisfied with the senatorâ€™s representation of North Carolina and 24 percent disapproved or strongly disapproved.
But both Democratic and Republican election handicappers say Dole is vulnerable because of her support of President Bushâ€™s Iraq policies. The same poll shows that only 32 percent of North Carolinians polled approved of her job performance on Iraq and 78 percent â€” the highest percentage â€” said the war will influence their vote in 2008.