When the left-leaning polling firm PPP asked voters which Democrat they would like to see on the ballot in November, the former congressman had the most support.
Second on that list was former state senator Dan Blue - who is still weighing his options. He discussed the pros and cons of a potential run with ABC11 Wednesday.
"You're talking about one of the highest profile jobs in the state; you don't wanna just arbitrarily jump in and do it," he explained.
It's a major leap, but Blue is seriously considering taking the plunge.
"[A] different choice, different possibilities excite North Carolinians," he said. "[It's] not necessarily whether I'm black or white - or any other kind of description they put on me - I believe in the people of this state."
Blue's name shoots to the top of a short list of North Carolina Democrats with the name recognition to compete in a primary that's only three months away.
"I think we ought to feel emboldened," he said.
Already in the race, are Lt. Governor Walter Dalton, State Rep. Bill Faison, and Etheridge.
"I know all of them. All of them are good men," said Blue. "I'm not in any way degrading their ability or suggesting they don't have the ability - but I'm exploring."
The 62-year-old grandfather says he's weighing the impact a run for governor would have on his family, and whether he could win.
PPP's poll shows Etheridge leading in the current three-man race, but in a four-man contest, Blue get 11 percent of the vote. It's still wide open.
Candidates can officially file to run starting Monday and Blue would only commit to deciding 'soon' whether to take another crack at making Carolina history.