Will former North Carolina state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) need some DSCC help to get across the finish line in his Senate primary?

His campaign just released its first-quarter fundraising totals, and Cunningham raised a less-than-stellar $345,000 for the period.

The good news is that he has done a pretty good job of banking the money he has raised, and he had nearly $480,000 in cash on hand at the end of March; that has allowed him to be the only candidate to go up on the air with ads. The bad news is that he's still fighting from behind against better-known Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, and half a million dollars is unlikely to allow him to saturate the airwaves.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) recruited Cunningham into the race and, though it hasn't officially endorsed him, would clearly prefer that he face Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in November.

In order to get him to that spot, though, it might have to spend some money in the primary, which concludes May 4. The DSCC did something similar with now-Sen. Jeff Merkley (R-Ore.) in his 2008 primary, and Merkley wound up beating Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.).

Merkley's and Cunningham's totals after the first quarter are remarkably similar. In 2008, Merkley had about $470,000 in the bank for his May primary, while Cunningham in 2010 has $480,000 in cash for his May primary.

Cunningham, of course, is running in a more expensive state. But Merkley's opponent was also raising better money than Cunningham's are. Marshall has proved no fundraising star, either, raising about $160,000 in the first quarter and having $180,000 cash on hand.