Monday, September 13, 2010

North Carolina U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

North Carolina U.S. Senate

September 13, 2010
50 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (South)

Outlook: Likely Republican

The U.S. Senate seat currently held by freshman Republican Richard Burr is rumored to be "cursed" as no Senator to hold it has won a second term in over 40 years. This historical oddity of Tar Heel State politics had Democrats thinking they could catch a break here, but it appears that at least, the streak is likely to be broken, as Burr is favored to be reelected. Perhaps the state's other Senate seat, which was once held for decades by Jesse Helms, and was lost in 2008 by Elizabeth Dole in a major political upset, will now take over the dubious honor of hosting a string of one termers.

North Carolina is a state that is associated with southern conservatism, but it's politics have remained somewhat competitive between the major parties. Strong campaigners and personalities have helped candidates win more elections than ideology. Throughout his term in the Senate, Burr's popularity numbers at home have not been overwhelming, but he seemed to have learned a lesson from Elizabeth Dole's failure to pay close attention to the folks back at home. Burr has raised a lot of money and seems to not be taking anything for granted, despite having a lead in the polls.

A few credible Democrats lined up to take their shot at Burr this year. The DSCC and the White House were believed to favor a young former State Senator and Iraq War veteran who some felt might be sufficiently centrist enough to receive cross over support. He lost by twenty points though in a runoff to a more veteran Democrat officeholder. Elaine Marshall is in her mid 60's and was first elected as North Carolina's Secretary of State in 1996. The first woman to win a state constitutional office, Marshall was elected that year by defeating NASCAR legend Richard Petty, indicating she must have had significant appeal.

In 2002, Marshall lost a Senate primary, but decided to take another stab at it this year. Her previous statewide success leave her as a candidate to be taken seriously, but she just may be running in the wrong state in the wrong year to have a realistic shot of upsetting Burr. National Democrats will be focused far more on vulnerable seats they currently hold than any effort to knock off a Republican incumbent in a southern state. Despite his having carried the state, North Carolina voters are probably in no rush to send someone to Washington D.C. to be an ally of Barack Obama.

Since the primary, some polls have showed the general election as being competitive, and in July, Marshall's own campaign poll even gave her a 2 point lead, but every other survey has the incumbent Burr in front. The firm Public Policy Polling, which is a Democrat outfit out of North Carolina poll the race on a regular basis and they show a slimmer lead than the surveys produced by Rasmussen Reports. PPP seems to be anticipating a stronger than usual showing for the race's Liberatrian candidate and they think Burr could still be vulnerable, but concede he is the favorite.

The most recent poll on the race from Rasmussen out last week show Burr ahead of Marshall by a 54-38 margin. When that is taken into account with Burr's massive cash on hand advantage, which he will be using to blanket the airwaves, it seems likely that Burr will be reelected to the no longer cursed seat by slightly over ten points, if not more.

Burr campaign link:

2010 U.S. Senate race predicted thus far: 7 D, 18 R
Predicted U.S. Senate Balance of Power thus far: 47 D, 41 R