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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- North Carolina

Marshall Releases Poll, Gets Visit From Biden

North Carolina Democrat Elaine Marshall released the results of a new internal poll that found the four-term secretary of state leading incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr by 2 points. That's well within the margin of error, but more to the point was that Burr was held to 35 percent and that nearly a quarter of voters had yet to make up their minds.

The poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners, a firm that conducts polling for Democratic candidates, from July 15-19 among 600 likely voters with a 4-point margin of error. It found Burr to not only have a low job approval rating, but also found a plurality of voters view him unfavorably.

The most recent public polls on the race were released two weeks ago and both found Burr leading by double digits. He leads by 10 points in the RCP Average.

In a memo announcing the results, Celinda Lake and Joshua Ulibarri conclude: "Marshall can win this race and flip this seat for Democrats if she has the resources to be competitive."

So far, money remains a major hurdle for Marshall, who was forced into a seven-week runoff after failing to win 40 percent of the vote in the primary. The extended primary left Marshall with less than $200,000 at the end of June. Burr has more than $6 million.

Although the White House initially attempted to recruit other candidates to the race and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee backed Marshall's runoff opponent, Cal Cunningham, Democrats in Washington see an opportunity in North Carolina and are getting behind Marshall's bid.

Marshall held a fundraiser last night that featured Vice President Biden, the top Democratic campaign surrogate in 2010. The event was small -- limited to 15 people -- but it made a clear statement that the White House is willing to help out.

"There is a clear choice in this North Carolina election between a woman who knows what drive [forward] means and somebody who clearly is continuing to be backwards," Biden told the crowd, which included Gov. Bev Perdue.

Similar Challenges In Bicoastal Senate Races

They're running on different party lines and in states on opposite sides of the country, but Carly Fiorina and Elaine Marshall now find themselves in similar situations -- challenging an incumbent and coming off competitive primary campaigns that have put them at significant financial disadvantages.

Fiorina, a California Republican, and Marshall, a Democrat in North Carolina, are running in states that often tilt toward the opposite party, yet they're also up against senators that are polling poorly and considered vulnerable. Still, unlike the two challengers, fundraising reports released last week show both Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) have had the luxury of saving up their money to unleash over the last several months.

While Fiorina was battling two others in the June 8 GOP primary, Sen. Barbara Boxer was hosting the president for fundraisers in L.A. and San Francisco. She raised an impressive $4.6 million from April through June, and over a six-week period from May 20 to June 30, Boxer collected $2.6 million and began July with $11.3 million on hand.

In the same time period, Fiorina raised $1.4 million. After the primary, however, her coffers dwindled and by the end of June had just less than $1 million left. The primary also forced Fiorina to loan her campaign $5.5 million, something she never planned on doing.

Her campaign isn't completely shutting the door on the possibility of Fiorina loaning more of her personal money for the general election, but at this point that is not part of the equation.

Continue reading "Similar Challenges In Bicoastal Senate Races" »

NC: Dems Target Most Vulnerable Republican

By Kyle Trygstad

In June 2008, North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole was polling near 50 percent and leading Democratic nominee Kay Hagan by double-digits. Democrats had hoped Gov. Mike Easley or another high-profile Democrat would challenge Dole, but none had stepped forward.

Fast forward two years, and the state's 2010 Senate race looks much the same.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall was not the national Democratic Party's favored candidate, but she won Tuesday's runoff convincingly and now is perhaps the party's best chance at defeating a Republican incumbent. Sen. Richard Burr is finishing up his first term in office but continues to hover below 50 percent in general election polling.

Hagan went on to defeat Dole by a significant margin, and Democrats think this year's nominee can be just as successful. Marshall defeated Cal Cunningham by 20 points in the runoff and now has the national party firmly behind her bid against Burr.

Unlike in 2008, however, the national political climate does not favor Democrats, and Marshall will not have a popular presidential candidate above her on the ballot. In fact, after two successful elections for Democrats, Burr is one of just two Republicans -- along with Louisiana's David Vitter -- that Democrats appear to have a reasonable chance of defeating.

Enthusiasm is one reason for the GOP's resurgence in the polls this year. Gallup reported Monday that the nationwide enthusiasm gap is the highest it's ever been for the GOP. Republicans think this could erase the party's voter registration deficit -- in North Carolina, the breakdown is 46 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican.

Marshall also has a financial disadvantage. Through mid-April, when the last fundraising reports were due, Marshall had less than $200,000 to Burr's nearly $5 million.

Continue reading "NC: Dems Target Most Vulnerable Republican" »

NC: Marshall Wins Runoff

By Kyle Trygstad

Elaine Marshall handily defeated Cal Cunningham to win the Democratic nomination in the North Carolina Senate race. The Associated Press called the race with a third of precincts reporting and Marshall leading with 62 percent of the vote.

In the May 4 primary, Marshall finished 4 points shy of the 40 percent needed to win the nomination outright. But it was a strong showing, taking 74 of the state's 100 counties.

Marshall is serving her fourth term as secretary of state, but the national party continued to recruit candidates it viewed as better competition for Republican Sen. Richard Burr. After Attorney General Roy Cooper and others turned down running, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee successfully recruited Cunningham into the race.

Cunningham is a young Iraq war veteran and former one-term state senator. In the anti-establishment year of 2010, he was viewed by some in Washington as a stronger opponent than someone who had been in the same office since the 1990s. Marshall's poor performance in the 2002 Democratic Senate primary also may have hampered the opinion of her.

But Marshall successfully overcame all of that and proved to voters that she would be the most electable against Burr, whom polls show to be the most vulnerable Republican senator in the country.

"Democrats got their more electable candidate for the fall by nominating Elaine Marshall to run against Richard Burr tonight," Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen wrote Tuesday night. "Qualitative arguments were made over the last six months that Cal Cunningham would be the stronger nominee but polling data has repeatedly shown that Marshall is the stronger candidate."

Despite its efforts to help Cunningham, the DSCC immediately released a statement congratulating Marshall.

"Congratulations to Elaine Marshall on her primary victory," said DSCC Chairman Robert Menendez. "She is a proven reformer who has taken on the special interests in her state, and has cracked down on lobbyist activity, insurance company abuses, and excess on Wall Street. Both Elaine and Cal Cunningham deserve credit for running spirited, aggressive campaigns."

With just two public polls released during the six week-long runoff campaign, it was difficult to tell if either candidate had separated themselves. Marshall did, however, win the endorsement of Ken Lewis, an African American attorney who finished third in the May 4 primary with 17 percent.

Marshall worked hard to win the black vote, which her campaign spokesman insisted weeks ago would be the difference in the race.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, in defending its biggest target, issued a statement on the race.

"Marshall has demonstrated that she will simply serve as another rubberstamp for President Obama and Harry Reid's deeply unpopular out-of-control spending agenda in Washington, which North Carolinians have soundly rejected," said NRSC Chairman John Cornyn. "In contrast, Richard Burr has a proven record of accomplishment, and he continues to work tirelessly to restore critical checks-and-balances that the families, seniors, and job creators in the Tar Heel State deserve."

RCP currently rates this race Leans Republican.

Three Races To Watch Today

By Kyle Trygstad

There are three major statewide races on the docket today, one governor's race and two to decide nominations for the Senate. With the upcoming Fourth of July holiday and Congress pushing to finish up business for the August recess, this is the last big day of elections for the next six weeks. Here's a look at the three biggest races of the day:

Utah - Republican Senate Primary

Businessman Tim Bridgewater nearly came out of the early May state party convention with the GOP nomination but fell 3 points shy of the 60 percent needed to avoid a primary. Since then, he's tried to prove his resume as a true conservative, while also collecting some establishment-type endorsements -- with none bigger than Sen. Bob Bennett, whom he defeated at the convention.

Meanwhile, attorney Mike Lee built up some momentum of his own and has collected endorsements from such conservatives as South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, as well as the Tea Party Express.

The two have furiously fought for the last six weeks to distinguish themselves, as they take similar stances on the top issues and entered the race from outside of elected office. One hot topic the Deseret News calls a "sleeper issue" is that of the importation of nuclear waste for disposal, something Lee supports and Bridgewater wants to ban.

A poll released over the weekend found Bridgewater ahead by 9 points with 43 percent of the vote. However, a quarter of voters remain undecided and the nomination is up for grabs.

Continue reading "Three Races To Watch Today" »

Lewis Backs Marshall In N.C. Senate Runoff

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall was endorsed this morning by Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis in the Democratic Senate primary runoff against Cal Cunningham. Lewis finished third in the May 4 primary, taking 17 percent of the vote that helped keep Marshall below the 40 percent needed to win the nomination outright.

Both candidates hoped to win the backing of Lewis as they push to win over as many voters as possible before the June 22 runoff.

"I respect all the candidates that ran, but, after it all, I'm supporting Elaine Marshall because I believe she can beat Richard Burr, and because I know she'll be a real fighter for North Carolinians in the Senate," Lewis wrote in a fundraising email from the Marshall campaign.

The Marshall campaign already believed it had the upper hand among black voters in the runoff, and the endorsement by Lewis, who is black, may help. Blacks could make up nearly a third of the runoff electorate.

"The combination of our organizations will build a powerful movement that leads us to victory in November," Marshall said at the announcement event in Raleigh.

Cunningham Memo Claims He's Party's Best Shot

A new poll shows how competitive the June 22 North Carolina Democratic Senate primary runoff will be between Cal Cunningham and Elaine Marshall, and both campaigns are out to prove why they would be the more competitive nominee against incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R).

The Public Policy Polling survey found Cunningham and Marshall tied at 36 percent apiece, with 28 percent undecided -- proof that the race is anyone's game. Earlier this week the Marshall campaign began to push an argument that Cunningham "has no path to victory," but the poll would appear to indicate otherwise.

In a memo to top campaign supporters today, Cunningham spokesman Jared Leopold pointed to the poll results and accused the Marshall campaign of taking a "premature victory lap."

"Candidates who declare victory weeks before the ballots are cast are likely to be surprised on Election Day," Leopold wrote.

Cunningham came into the race as the unknown quantity, though his background made him an attractive candidate to the national party, which recruited him for some time to run. Already in the race was Marshall, the four-term secretary of state.

Her long statewide experience is now being used against her, as Leopold writes: "Voters don't want career politicians; they are looking for a new generation of leaders to take on the challenges we face." In this anti-incumbent, anti-Washington national mood, that's a line that could work both in the primary and against Burr.

Continue reading "Cunningham Memo Claims He's Party's Best Shot" »

Elaine Marshall's Path To Victory

Thomas Mills, spokesman for the Elaine Marshall Senate campaign, says there is no conceivable way Cal Cunningham wins the June 22 primary runoff for the Democratic nomination in North Carolina.

"In a runoff election, Cal Cunningham has no path to victory," Mills concludes in a memo to reporters.

Indeed, while Marshall's 36 percent take in a multi-candidate primary was less than the 40 percent needed to win the nomination outright, she did have a commanding victory nonetheless.

Upon the Marshall campaign's calls for him to concede the nomination to Marshall, Cunningham, who finished second with 27 percent, noted that two-thirds of voters chose someone other than Marshall, a four-time statewide office holder whom Democratic voters know well.

While that's true, Marshall also won three-fourths of the state's 100 counties. In the counties she didn't win, she finished second.

Her 74-county take includes seven of the 10 biggest counties. Cunningham won two (Wilmington's New Hanover County and Winston Salem's Forsyth) and Ken Lewis, the third place finisher, won Durham.

Marshall won the three biggest counties (Charlotte's Mecklenburg County, Raleigh's Wake and Guilford's Greensboro) as well as Faytteville's Cumberland County, Asheville's Buncombe, and Gaston and Union counties that take in Charlotte suburbs.

Both candidates will be fighting for Lewis's support -- the African American attorney from Durham picked up 17 percent of the vote -- as well as the 19 percent collectively won by the other three candidates in the primary race.

Mills believes African Americans will make up 30 percent of the runoff electorate, and calls that voting bloc "a population in which she overwhelmingly defeated Cunningham." Plus, Mills writes, "almost 50% will be women over 50 years old, Marshall's base."

In Cunningham's favor is a two-to-one cash advantage through mid-April, which could give him an edge in TV ads -- a key to getting out the vote. He was on TV nearly three times as much as Marshall in the primary, according to Mills.

Public Policy Polling released a poll today showing Marshall and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) within 1 point of each other, while Burr held a 5-point lead over Cunningham.

Cunningham: Democrats Need More Time To Pick Nominee

Rejecting calls from his opponent not to pursue a runoff campaign, Cal Cunningham today challenged his opponent to up to five debates before a second vote June 22 among North Carolina Democrats to choose a Senate nominee.

"We think that Tuesday's ballot was a pretty clear indication that voters would like more information about their candidates," he told reporters this afternoon.

Though Elaine Marshall led Cunningham by more than 9 points in Tuesday's vote, Cunningham argued that he had shown the momentum late in the race. He also turned to quotes from Marshall in her past statewide races embracing runoffs.

"Ms. Marshall can't have it both ways," he said, quoting her as saying in 1996 that a runoff "was one of the best things that could have happened to her." "We're in an environment where she's been running statewide for 14 years. They know her. I'm the new guy. And we think that the more the electorate tuned in in the run-up to election day on Tuesday, the more they responded to our message and looked for another candidate other than the one that they knew. We obviously were the beneficiary of people looking for an energetic alternative."

"She's been running statewide for 14 years," Cunningham said.

Continue reading "Cunningham: Democrats Need More Time To Pick Nominee" »

Except For N.C., Both Parties Win On Primary Night

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall finished short of winning the 40 percent necessary to take the Democratic nomination and the right to challenge Republican Sen. Richard Burr. The result was the one aberration in an otherwise good night for the two national parties, which got their favored candidates in the other two states holding contested Senate primaries on Tuesday.

In Ohio, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher defeated Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in the Democratic primary and will face former Rep. Rob Portman in the general election. In Indiana, former Sen. Dan Coats won a competitive Republican primary and will likely take on Rep. Brad Ellsworth, whom Democratic leaders in the state are expected to select as their nominee next month.

The Ohio and Indiana seats are open following the retirements of Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.).

In North Carolina, Marshall received 36 percent, followed by Cal Cunningham with 27 percent and Ken Lewis with 17 percent. As the top two finishers, Marshall and Cunningham will face each other again in a June 22 runoff, a costly addition for Democrats who would rather turn their attention toward Burr.

The Marshall campaign has already requested that Cunningham drop out of the race in deference to Marshall winning a plurality of the votes.

Continue reading "Except For N.C., Both Parties Win On Primary Night" »

NC Sen Poll: Democratic Primary Still Wide Open

After some recruiting failures, national Democrats thought they got their man to challenge Sen. Richard Burr (R) when Cal Cunningham decided to run. But a new Public Policy Polling (D) survey in North Carolina shows that Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D) still leads the field, with voters still unfamiliar with the field ahead of the May 4 primary.

Primary Election Matchup (420 LVs, 3/12-15, MoE +/- 4.8%)
Marshall 20 (-9 vs. last poll, 2/12-15)
Cunningham 16 (+4)
Lewis 11 (+6)
Other 6 (+4)
Und 47 (-4)

All three candidates are unknown to sizable percentages of even the Democratic electorate.

Burr polls at 58 percent in the GOP primary, with a third saying they are undecided. (311 LVs, MoE +/- 5.6%). In a hypothetical 2012 primary, Mike Huckabee would win with 30 percent, followed by Sarah Palin at 27 percent and Mitt Romney with 25 percent.

NC Sen Poll: Race Remains Frozen

Public Policy Polling's (D) latest survey in North Carolina (678 RVs, 1/15-18, MoE +/- 3.8%) continues to see little movement in the Senate race there, even though Sen. Richard Burr's (R) approval rating remains in a vulnerable state.

General Election Matchups
Burr 45 -- Cunningham 36 -- Und 19
Burr 46 -- Lewis 34 -- Und 20
Burr 44 -- Marshall 37 -- Und 18

Only 36 percent of voters approve of Burr's job performance, while 33 percent disapprove and another 30 percent are unsure. His lead can be attributed to the fact that each of the Democrats have low name ID in the state.

Favorable Ratings
Cunningham 6 / 8
Lewis 7 / 10
Marshall 19 / 12

National Democrats had worked to recruit Cal Cunningham into the race. You can read our recent interview with him here.

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NC Sen Poll: When Will Dems Overtake Burr?

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has long been considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country, save for the fact that he did not have a big-name Democratic opponent. This remains true after today's Public Policy Polling survey, which finds the first-term senator continuing to hold off his three challengers -- all of whom are unknown to more than two-thirds of the state's voters.

The question is: how long will they remain unknown, especially with the national Democratic Party all but endorsing former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, who only recently entered the race. Cunningham is unknown to 81% of the state, while 80% aren't sure of attorney Kenneth Lewis and 69% of Elaine Marshall, who's serving her fourth term as North Carolina's Secretary of State.

As for Burr, nearly 30% still don't know enough about him to form an opinion, while 35% approve of his job performance and 37% disapprove. Tested against a generic Democrat, Burr holds a statistically insignificant 42%-41% lead. Here's how he tests against the three Democrats in the race:

Burr 45 - Cunningham 36 - Und 20

Burr 43 - Lewis 37 - Und 21

Burr 42 - Marshall 37 - Und 21

The PPP survey was taken of 593 registered voters in North Carolina and conducted from Dec. 11-13 with a margin of error of +/-4.0%.

Civitas Institute released a poll on the race yesterday, finding Burr leading Marshall by 8 points.

On Second Thought, Cunningham Sees Winnable Race In N.C.

At a time when some Democrats look ahead nervously to 2010, Cal Cunningham is diving right in.

The North Carolina Democrat had ruled out challenging incumbent Richard Burr next fall, but changed his mind this week and entered a race national Democrats feel could be one of their top pickup opportunities. In an interview with RCP Tuesday, Cunningham acknowledged Democratic setbacks this fall, but said the story was different in the Tar Heel State.

"We saw what happened in Virginia. We saw the results in New Jersey. But did you see our results in Charlotte?" he asked. "We elected a new, young, African-American, Democratic mayor for the first time in over 20 years. ... We won a number of the key municipal races, Democrats did, here in North Carolina. We think that there is a lot of good stuff happening."

Those results, combined with the reception he received as he toured the state in his exploratory phase, that led Cunningham to reconsider his earlier decision not to run.

"It's really not in my nature to sit on the sidelines when the challenges we're facing are as serious as they are," Cunningham said, citing the economic challenges nationally and in North Carolina, as well as the continued conflicts overseas involving many in the state. And Burr, elected to the Senate in 2004 after five terms in the House, has no significant accomplishments to show for his time in Washington, he argued.

"He hasn't really been doing his part to move us forward," he said. "To the contrary, he's voted down the party line to put us in the ditch, drive the country into the ditch. So I know we can do better."

Cunningham, a former state senator and a veteran of the Iraq war, is the latest Democrat to enter the race, joining Secretary of State Elaine Marshall among others. His decision to enter the race after initially turning it down emboldened Washington Democrats, who see Burr as vulnerable but were skeptical of Marshall's chances. Cunningham himself has some catching up to do now, particularly on the fundraising front. But he says he's been encouraged by the early support.

"We will work hard. We will have the resources to communicate with voters. And I think we've got a really good shot," he said.

Continue reading "On Second Thought, Cunningham Sees Winnable Race In N.C." »

A Democratic Schism In North Carolina

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, recently passed on to reporters the advice he gives to candidates in primaries -- save your negative campaigning for the general election. Just one day into what could be a tough primary race in North Carolina, that rule was already broken.

Democrats officially got their man Monday when former North Carolina state senator Cal Cunningham announced he will indeed challenge Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) next year. About a month ago, Cunningham opted against a bid despite the encouragement of the national party, but Rep. Bob Etheridge's (D-N.C.) subsequent decision not to run propelled Cunningham back into the race.

Already running was Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who has been elected statewide four times, and attorney Kenneth Lewis. Much to the chagrin of Marshall's campaign, the DSCC was unimpressed with her and continued to recruit candidates it felt had the best chance of upending Burr and continuing the seat's perpetual turnover streak --no one has won re-election to the seat since the early 1970s.

Shortly after Cunningham's announcement Monday, the DSCC released a statement on the race that criticized Burr and touted Cunningham's resume, but made no mention of Marshall or Lewis.

"Richard Burr remains one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the United States Senate. ... [I]t has become clear that Richard Burr is beholden to the special interests in Washington," said DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz. "In contrast, Cal Cunningham served with distinction in Iraq; has a record of cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse; and is already building an exciting grassroots coalition on the ground in North Carolina."

Schultz added that "Burr's ongoing obstruction of health care reform is the latest reason why he's going to have a real race next November."

While it has not officially endorsed Cunningham, the DSCC's snub of Marshall led the campaign to release a statement Monday that was critical of Cunningham's ties to the national party, as well as his refusal to join the race until he was assured of the DSCC's backing.

"He's kind of the hokey pokey candidate -- he's in one minute and out the next. He's in the race because Washington wants to choose who North Carolina's nominee is going to be," said Thomas Mills, a Marshall consultant. "Cal Cunningham apparently is scared of a primary or he would have gotten in earlier. The only way he got in was with the support of the Washington power brokers."

Intraparty battles aren't just a Democratic worry in 2010. The Republican Party is facing similar situations in a few states where national leadership has given preferential treatment to certain candidates -- often the more moderate candidate, whom the party thinks has a better chance to win statewide.

In Florida, the National Republican Senatorial Committee quickly endorsed Gov. Charlie Crist despite the presence of conservative Marco Rubio in the race. Conservatives have also been up in arms over the assistance Carly Fiorina has received in her Senate bid in California, where Chuck DeVore is running as well. Both Rubio and DeVore have centered campaign attacks on their establishment-backed primary opponents, something Menendez had hoped to avoid in North Carolina, as well as other states like Pennsylvania, Colorado and Ohio, where more than one Democrat is running.

"Obviously we always prefer not to see primaries because we want to focus on the general election," Menendez told reporters during an off-camera briefing in late September. "My one admonition, generically, to all who may be in a race in a primary is that there is plenty to talk about on the Republican side. Focus on your assets and on the target; don't focus on each other.

"To the extent that people play out of bounds, we may get engaged and be referee and say, 'Hey, this is not useful, not helpful, inconsequential.' But so far, so good."

That was more than two months ago, and things may not be all good anymore. The DSCC's involvement in the race and last week's leak of Cunningham's imminent entrance happening on the same day as Marshall's husband's funeral has caused some anger in North Carolina Democratic circles.

Reached for further comment Tuesday, Mills told RealClearPolitics he does not anticipate "this being an especially nasty campaign" for the Democratic nomination.

"That being said I think that primaries should be determined by people who live in their state, and candidates should not be chosen -- I don't believe in coronations," said Mills. "We look forward to working with national Democrats when Elaine Marshall is the Democratic nominee in North Carolina."

For its part, the state party is staying completely neutral in the three-candidate race as it focuses its efforts on defeating Burr, and Chairman David Young is downplaying the role of the DSCC in the race.

"Now it's show me the money time -- it's about who can raise the money, who can generate the enthusiasm," Young told RCP. "I really believe if one of those three candidates starts showing big fundraising reports, that will be the chosen one."

NC Sen Poll: Burr Treading Water

Public Policy Polling's (D) latest survey in North Carolina finds not much has changed for Sen. Richard Burr (R) as the year to Election Day begins.

His job approval rating is just 40 percent, typically a warning sign for an incumbent. But against several potential Democratic foes, the numbers have changed little since last month's survey, with Burr still ahead by double-digits. The only significant change being a 6-point uptick in a matchup of the incumbent versus a generic Democrat. "It's gotten closer because Democrats this month expressed a stronger commitment to supporting their party nominee," a PPP analysis says.

General Election Matchups
Burr 44 -- Cunningham 31 -- Und 25
Burr 45 -- Etheridge 35 -- Und 20
Burr 44 -- Foy 32 -- Und 23
Burr 45 -- Lewis 32 -- Und 26
Burr 45 -- Marshall 34 -- Und 21
Burr 45 -- Wicker 33 -- Und 22

Burr 44 -- Generic D 40 -- Und 16

More from PPP:

"Every poll we do on Richard Burr provides more evidence that his fate will be tied up in the national climate," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "His approval numbers are mediocre but he'll still get reelected if it's a Republican year. If things move back in a more Democratic direction he's extremely vulnerable."

The automated telephone survey of 711 state voters was conducted November 9-11, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.7%.

NC Sen Poll: Burr +11

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) leads by 11 points in his bid for re-election, according to a new Civitas Institute poll (Oct. 20-21, 600 LV, MoE +/- 4%) -- the second survey on Burr's re-election hopes to be released today.

The Elon University Poll out earlier today found that just 19% of North Carolina adults think Burr deserves re-election. The Civitas poll, however, finds Burr well ahead of Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, though still under 50%.

Burr 44
Marshall 33
Und 23

Civitas asked supporters of both candidates whether they were definitely for, probably for, or just leaning toward voting for them -- 33% said they were definitely voting for Burr compared to just 18% who said the same about Marshall.

"Burr is in a very good position right now relative to his potential rival," said Civitas executive director Francis De Luca. "Not only does he lead by 10 points, but his base of support is nearly twice as strong as Marshall's. In fact, more voters are solidly in Burr's camp than show support for Marshall."

NC Sen: Burr, Or Time For Someone New?

Not since 1968 has the Senate seat currently held by Richard Burr (N.C.) been won in re-election, and the seat has switched parties in every election since 1980. Whether Burr can break both trends remains to be seen.

With the economy atop the list of important issues to North Carolinians, Burr's electoral outlook a year from now could look drastically different than it does today -- depending on how much the economy improves and how voters see Burr's role in it.

Today, less than one-in-five North Carolina adults think Burr deserves re-election, according to the new Elon University Poll (Oct. 26-29, 703 A, MoE +/- 3.8%), while 42 percent say it's time for someone new to have a chance.

Rather than showing a severe disapproval of Burr's service, however, the survey shows that voters aren't tuned in yet to the race. Just 22% disapprove of the job he's doing and 22% are dissatisfied with his representation, but his positive marks aren't much higher. A large chunk say they simply don't know.

President Obama's approval rating is at 53% -- up 3 points from his Nov. 2008 election take -- however just 43% approve of the way he's handling the economy. Voters are split on how much confidence they have in Congress, and just 30% say the country is going in the right direction.

"Citizens appear agitated with the perceived lack of progress that Congress, the president, and their senators have made in addressing their main concern -- the economy," said Elon polling director Hunter Bacot. "It will be interesting to see just how long their patience with this administration and Congress will last."

NC Sen Poll: Despite Low Approval, Burr Appears Safe

The seat that Sen. Richard Burr (R) now holds has changed hands every six years for decades. But even with an approval rating that would be considered dangerous for an incumbent at this point, Burr is poised to buck that trend, a new PPP (D) poll finds.

General Election Matchups
Burr 46 -- Cunningham 27 -- Und 27
Burr 44 -- Etheridge 33 -- Und 23
Burr 45 -- Foy 29 -- Und 26
Burr 44 -- Lewis 30 -- Und 26
Burr 44 -- Marshall 32 -- Und 24
Burr 43 -- Wicker 30 -- Und 26

Burr 45 -- Generic D 34 -- Und 22

In PPP's last survey, Burr ranged from 41-43 percent against these same opponents. His approval rating is now 36 percent, down from 38.

The survey of 683 voters was conducted October 2-4, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percent.

Burr Leads Despite Low Approval

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) continues to lead potential Democratic challengers despite his perpetual sub-40% approval rating, a new PPP survey finds (Sept. 2-8, 600 RV, MoE +/- 4%).

Democrats the survey matched up against Burr in hypothetical general election races include: former state senator Cal Cunningham, U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy, attorney Kenneth Lewis, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (who filed her candidacy paperwork Wednesday) and former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker.

Burr 42 - Cunningham 30 - Und 29
Burr 41 - Etheridge 34 - Und 25
Burr 43 - Foy 29 - Und 29
Burr 43 - Lewis 27 - Und 29
Burr 42 - Marshall 31 - Und 27
Burr 42 - Wicker 31 - Und 27

NC Sen Poll: Burr Leads Dem Challengers

Despite favorability ratings still hovering in the 30s, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R) leads four Democratic challengers in his bid for re-election to a second term, according to a new survey from the Dem-leaning Public Policy Polling. Burr leads Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, state Sen. Cal Cunningham, lawyer Kenneth Lewis and Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy.

Burr wins 43% against all four candidates -- identical to the 43% former senator Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) won against Kay Hagan (D) in August 2007. Hagan, of course, went on to defeat Dole in the 2008 general election.

Burr 43 - Marshall 35 - Und 26
Burr 43 - Cunningham 28 - Und 29
Burr 43 - Lewis 27 - Und 30
Burr 43 - Foy 27 - Und 30

NC Sen Poll: Generic Dem Leads Burr

While no Democrat has actually stepped forward with a serious challenge to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), that doesn't mean the generic Democratic candidate doesn't lead the first-term senator in polling. A new survey from Public Policy Polling (June 12-14, 784 RV, MoE +/- 3.5%) finds Burr trailing an unnamed "Democratic Opponent" 41%-38%.

Just 64% of those who said they were conservative and 49% of Republicans said they would back Burr over a generic Democrat.

Attorney General Roy Cooper and Rep. Heath Shuler were once the leading Democratic contenters to take on Burr, but both have taken their hats out of the ring (Shuler twice), leaving Democrats with what looks like a vulnerable incumbent to challenge but with no challenger to do it.

In the survey, 29% said Burr deserves a second term in office, while 49% said it's time to give someone else a chance. Just 34% approve of the job Burr's doing in the Senate, compared to 35% who disapprove and 31% not sure.

NC: Shuler Says No Senate Run

The Henderson Times-News reports that Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) flatly ruled out challenging Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in 2010 during a local event this morning. From the News-Times:

"I am not running for Senate," the second-term Democrat said after a ground-breaking ceremony for a new building at the Bent Creek Experimental Forest Station in Asheville. "I am not running for Senate. I am not running for Senate. I have said that a thousand times, and I don't know why they keep coming up (with the idea). Of course they keep coming up and running polls.

As Kyle reported last week, Shuler had said earlier this year he wouldn't run, but state and national Democrats were still hoping to change his mind. Burr keeps finding himself listed among vulnerable GOP incumbents, but so far no top Democrat has been recruited.

NC Senate: Burr Awaits A Challenger

Check out my piece today on the Senate race in North Carolina, where Sen. Richard Burr (R) awaits a Democratic challenger. Polls and the current landscape within the state indicate Burr is vulnerable, but no Dems have stepped up as of yet.

By any number of metrics, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr could be the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the country. His once Republican-leaning state looks rather blue after the 2008 elections, and recent polls show Burr anything but safe.

Still, Burr is likeable -- nothing like his distant relative, Vice President Aaron Burr -- and he lacks the kind of issues that doomed former senator Elizabeth Dole's re-election bid last year. Perhaps most important to the first-term senator's survival prospects, though, is that no top-tier Democrat has stepped forward to challenge him.

You can read the rest here.

NC Sen: Burr Numbers Weak

A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that Sen. Richard Burr's (R-N.C.) fortunes have not improved much, and that early in the cycle, he could be vulnerable to a strong Democratic challenger.

Burr's approval rating held steady at 35 percent in the survey, with 31 percent disapproving (down 1 point from 32 percent in a March survey). This month's poll also tested two potential Democratic challengers: Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), who has a fav/unfav rating of 41/20, and Rep. Mike McIntyre (23/21).

A March survey showed Burr leading 42-38% over a generic Democratic candidate. Here's how Burr fared against these Democrats:

General Election Matchups
Cooper 41
Burr 37
Undecided 22

Burr 39
McIntyre 34
Undecided 27

Burr fails to reach the critical 50% threshold for incumbents even against McIntyre, a 7-term Congressman representing the southern part of the state. Democrats are hoping to recruit Cooper, who was elected for a third time to the statewide office last fall.

Former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) showed similarly weak numbers throughout her final years in office, but high profile Democrats passed on the race. But the little-known state Sen. Kay Hagan (D) was able to mount a strong challenge, and easily defeated Dole in 2008 in a state that Barack Obama also carried.

The PPP survey was conducted April 8-11, and had a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

Burr's Approval Rating Low

Facing a re-election campaign in 2010, Sen. Richard Burr's (R-N.C.) approval rating has dropped to 35%, with 32% disapproving and 33% not sure, according to a new PPP survey (March 12-15, 1000 RV, MoE +/- 3.1%).

The polling firm notes that Burr's numbers are worse than former Sen. Elizabeth Dole's (R-N.C.) at this point in her re-election campaign two years ago. Dole went on to lose to Democrat Kay Hagan by 9 points.

These poor numbers come as Democrats search for a candidate to challenge Burr. In this poll, PPP tested Sec. of State Elaine Marshall (D), who finished third in the 2002 Senate Democratic primary. Despite holding statewide office for years, more than 50% of respondents said they had no opinion of her.

Burr (R) 43
Marshall (D) 35
Und 22

NC: Dole Trails In 3

A Civitas Institute poll, conducted 10/27-29 by TelOpinion Research, surveyed 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Senator Elizabeth Dole, Democratic state Senator Kay Hagan and Libertarian Christopher Cole were tested.

(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Hagan......45 / 69 / 12 / 44 (+1 from last, 10/20)
Dole.......43 / 19 / 78 / 41 (+2)
Cole....... 5 / 3 / 5 / 8 (+1)

A CNN/Time/Opinion Research poll surveyed 937 registered voters 10/23-28 for a margin of error of +/- 3.2%. Subsample of 667 likely voters, margin of error +/- 3.8%.

(RVs / LVs)
Hagan......48 / 53
Dole.......47 / 44

An Allstate/National Journal poll conducted by Financial Dynamics surveyed 402 registered voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%.

Hagan......43
Dole.......37

No polls have been taken since Dole launched her ad implying Hagan is an atheist, but the Democrat has led in every poll we've seen since the middle of September. Even Republicans watching the race think Dole is finished.

NC: Gov Race Tied

An AP/GfK poll surveyed 601 likely voters 10/22-26 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. GOP Senator Elizabeth Dole, Democratic State Senator Kay Hagan and Libertarian Christopher Cole were tested in the Senate race. In the battle for governor, Lieutenant Governor Bev Perdue, Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and Libertarian Michael Munger were tested.

General Election Matchup
Hagan.......47
Dole........43
Cole........ 2

Perdue......44
McCrory.....44
Munger...... 4

Dole has been attacking Hagan for participating in a fundraiser which two prominent atheists attended, and Hagan is pushing back hard. A case of much ado about nothing, or could this sink one candidate for her associations or the other one for overreaching?

NC: Hagan +3

Democrats are still looking good in the Tar Heel State, according to a new Civitas Institute poll, as the governor candidate pulls back into a tie with her GOP foe. The poll, conducted 10/18-20 by TelOpinion Research, surveyed 600 registered voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.2%. In the Senate race, Elizabeth Dole, Democrat Kay Hagan and Libertarian Chris Cole were tested, while Lieutenant Governor Bev Perdue, Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and Libertarian Michael Munger were tested in the governor's race.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Hagan......44 / 70 / 11 / 39 (-1 from last, 10/8)
Dole.......41 / 17 / 76 / 36 (-1)
Cole....... 4 / 3 / 3 / 4 (+1)

McCrory....43 / 22 / 75 / 38 (no change)
Perdue.....43 / 69 / 10 / 38 (+2)
Munger..... 2 / 1 / 3 / 4 (no change)

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state, and if Barack Obama drives seriously increased turnout, Dole and McCrory could have trouble surviving.

NC: Dems Lead

North Carolina has the potential to be a very bad state for Republicans come Election Day, but at least the party has a chance to steal a governor's mansion.

A DailyKos/Research 2000 poll conducted 10/14-15 surveyed 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Elizabeth Dole, a Republican, and Democrat Kay Hagan were tested in the Senate race, and Lieutenant Governor Bev Perdue and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory were tested in the governor's race.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Hagan....49 / 82 / 10 / 46 / 46 / 52 (+7 from last, 9/10)
Dole.....45 / 12 / 85 / 45 / 49 / 41 (-3)

Perdue...48 / 80 / 10 / 44 / 45 / 51 (+6)
McCrory..43 / 10 / 84 / 43 / 47 / 39 (-4)

Obama....46 / 76 / 8 / 47 / 42 / 50 (+8)
McCain...44 / 14 / 84 / 40 / 49 / 39 (-9)

Despite ads being run against her by conservative groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Freedom's Watch, Hagan's favorable rating is a very impressive 55% to 35% unfavorable. Dole hasn't led a poll for two weeks, and hasn't led a live-call poll for a month.

NC: Hagan, McCrory Lead

If there's a state in which change will dominate, it's North Carolina. The incumbent party trails the three races atop the ballot, according to a new poll. The TelOpinion Research poll, conducted for the conservative-leaning Civitas Institute, surveyed 600 likely voters between 10/6-8 for a margin of error of +/- 4%.

Senator Elizabeth Dole, Democrat Kay Hagan and Libertarian Chris Cole were matched up in the Senate race, while Democratic Lieutenant Governor Bev Perdue, GOP Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and Libertarian Michael Munger were pitted against each other in the governor's race.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Hagan......45 / 68 / 15 / 44 / 44 / 46 (+4 from last, 9/20)
Dole.......42 / 17 / 77 / 41 / 43 / 41 (-2)
Cole....... 2 / 3 / 1 / 4 / 3 / 2 (-3)

McCrory....43 / 17 / 77 / 46 / 44 / 42 (no change)
Perdue.....41 / 64 / 13 / 32 / 41 / 41 (no change)
Munger.....-- / -- / -- / -- / -- / -- (-3)

The same poll shows Barack Obama leading John McCain by five points, 48%-43%. If you're an incumbent in North Carolina, you're in trouble.

NC: Dole, McCrory Lead

It may be the most polled state outside of Iowa and New Hampshire, but for the first time a poll has showed Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory with a significant lead over Democratic Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue.

The poll, conducted by independent Research 2000 for DailyKos, surveyed 600 likely voters between 9/8-10 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. In the governor's race, Perdue and McCrory were tested, while in the Senate race, Republican Elizabeth Dole and Democratic state Senator Kay Hagan were tested. The sample was 44% Democratic, 35% Republican and 21% independent.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
McCrory....47 / 15 / 86 / 49 / 51 / 43
Perdue.....42 / 75 / 4 / 38 / 39 / 45

Dole.......48 / 18 / 87 / 46 / 53 / 43
Hagan......42 / 73 / 6 / 39 / 38 / 46

McCain.....55 / 23 / 91 / 62 / 59 / 51
Obama......38 / 69 / 4 / 31 / 34 / 42

The results aren't out of line with other polls, which have all showed close Senate and governor's races. But if accurate, the DailyKos poll shows a serious shift in recent weeks toward the GOP. Independents are breaking to Republicans across the board, and the Democratic base has either not come home yet or is seriously fractured.

Add Research 2000 to a mix that includes the Civitas Institute, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and pollsters for both campaigns, as well as dial-response pollsters Public Policy Polling, SurveyUSA and Rasmussen, all of whom have conducted surveys in North Carolina in the last month. If you're a Tarheel voter, you may have a better chance of answering a poll than residents of any other state. (Side note: Expect a new Civitas poll within days.)

NC: Perdue +6, Dole +2

Democratic hopes of winning big in North Carolina are more than a pipe dream, a new poll for Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue shows. All three races at the top of the ticket remain close, according to the survey.

The poll, conducted for Perdue's campaign by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, surveyed 605 likely voters between 9/5-7. In the governor's race, Perdue and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican nominee, were tested. For Senate, incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole was matched up against State Senator Kay Hagan. The sample included 46% self-identified Democrats, 35% self-identified Republicans and 19% independent or other party voters.

General Election Matchups
Perdue.........46
McCrory........40

Dole...........48
Hagan..........46

McCain.........49
Obama..........46

In the survey memo, Fred Yang, one of the most respected North Carolina pollsters in Democratic politics, writes that Republicans are actually oversampled. Party registration figures with the Secretary of State's office show 45.3% of voters are registered Democrats, 32.7% are registered Republicans and the remaining 22% are affiliated with neither major party.

Republicans may point out that a poll conducted for a Democrat will be biased in favor of that candidate, but the numbers reflect others that show neck-and-neck contests. Democratic groups have spent more money advertising on behalf of Perdue and Hagan than Republican groups have on behalf of their candidates, contributing to those tight races.

An interesting side note: Perdue, a long-time presence in state politics, will be on the ballot as "Bev Perdue," using the shortened version of her first name. As far as we can tell, Yang is the only pollster to have tested her that way instead of as "Beverly."

NC: Hagan +5

North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole trails her opponent in a new Democracy Corps poll, highlighting the Republican's vulnerability in November. Still, Dole's campaign will point out that the survey was conducted by a Democratic firm. The poll also found the state's governor's race is a tie, giving Republicans hope of picking up at least one executive mansion in November.

The survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Washington-based firm, polled 852 likely voters between 8/20-26 for a margin of error of +/- 3.4% (The sample's partisan breakdown: 40% Democratic, 33% Republican, 27% independent and others). Dole and State Senator Kay Hagan were tested, along with Lieutenant Governor Bev Perdue and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor, respectively.

General Election Matchup (With leaners)
Hagan...........50
Dole............45

Perdue..........46
McCrory.........46

McCain..........47
Obama...........44

Generic Dem.....49
Generic GOP.....43

The numbers in the governor's race show what most other surveys agree upon -- a tight race in which the candidates are within a point or two of each other. The presidential matchup also tracks closely with most polls; the latest RCP North Carolina Average shows McCain leading by 4.2 points.

The Senate race has been less stable, with some polls showing Dole with a big lead, particularly after she ran an initial series of advertisements, and others with Hagan running close if not even.

Dole has plenty of opportunities to make the race as close as the governor's race. After respondents were read an informed ballot highlighting each candidate's positives and negatives, the two tied at 47% each.

Still, Dole's job approval ratings are 38% approve to 39% disapprove, meaning the Republican will have to use her sizable war chest to bolster he own image. Hagan will continue to try and tie Dole to the unpopular President Bush, whose approval ratings are a dismal 38% approve to 57% disapprove.

NC: Dole +3

Senator Elizabeth Dole is in a tight race for re-election, a new survey shows, as new advertisements hitting the first-term Republican and praising her Democratic rival collaborate to reduce Dole's once-sizeable lead.

The poll, conducted by TelOpinion Research for the North Carolina-based Civitas Institute, surveyed 600 likely voters between 8/14-17 for a margin of error of +/- 4.2%. Dole, Democratic State Senator Kay Hagan and Libertarian Chris Cole were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Dole........44 / 15 / 80 / 47 / 43 / 44 (-3 from last, 7/16)
Hagan.....41 / 67 / 10 / 37 / 42 / 41 (+3)
Cole..........4 / 3 / 3 / 8 / 6 / 3 (+2)

Dole has a big lead among voters in both Western and Eastern Carolina, regions where she leads by nearly twenty points, while Hagan keeps the race close with a massive 61%-28% lead in the Research Triangle. Hagan has not made serious inroads among independent voters in the last few months, but she's consolidated her Democratic base enough to make the race close.

The race has narrowed thanks in part to advertisements run by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has slammed Dole as an ineffective Senator who votes with President Bush too often, and thanks to Hagan's own first ads of the general election, which hit the air two days before the poll went in the field. Earlier Civitas polls had shown significant movement after Dole started running her first ads, back in June.

NC: Dole +8, Obama Close

A new poll shows North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole retaining a solid lead over her Democratic rival, but it's not a done deal by any means. And a first round of advertisements from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee could cut into that lead.

The poll, conducted by Research 2000 on behalf of DailyKos, surveyed 600 likely voters between 7/28-30 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Dole and State Senator Kay Hagan, the Democratic nominee, were tested among a survey made up of 44% Democrats, 36% Republicans and 20% independents and others.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom / R-D / Cha / W-S)
Dole.......50 / 18 / 89 / 50 / 54 / 46 / 46 / 49 / 53 (+2 from last, 4/30)
Hagan....42 / 71 / 8 / 39 / 39 / 45 / 47 / 40 / 38 (+1)

McCain...47 / 16 / 85 / 47 / 52 / 42 / 42 / 51 / 52
Obama...43 / 77 / 6 / 35 / 39 / 47 / 48 / 38 / 38

(Geographic note: "R-D" is the Raleigh-Durham area; "Cha" is the Charlotte region; and "W-S" is Winston-Salem and surrounding areas)

The overriding lesson: Democrats need to consolidate their base and win over more independent voters, as close to twice as many voters from their base are backing the Republican candidates. Hagan is a popular challenger, with a 51% favorable rating and a 32% unfavorable, which compares positively to Dole's 53% favorable and 38% unfavorable.

Dole, Perdue Lead

A new poll conducted for the conservative-leaning Civitas Institute in North Carolina shows Tar Heels will be treated to two good races this year. In the governor's race, the state features one of a very few around the country that look destined to be competitive, while Senator Elizabeth Dole continues to maintain a lead in her bid for re-election.

The survey, conducted for Civitas by the Republican firm Tel Opinion Research, polled 600 registered voters between 7/14-16 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. In the governor's race, Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue, the Democratic nominee, Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and college professor Mike Munger, the Libertarian, were tested. For Senate, the poll tested Dole, State Senator Kay Hagan, her Democratic opponent, and Libertarian Chris Cole.

General Election Matchups
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom / Cha / Wes / P-T / Tri / NoE / SoE)
Perdue......43 / 64 / 16 / 41 / 41 / 45 / 23 / 37 / 48 / 48 / 62 / 50
McCrory....40 / 18 / 75 / 28 / 42 / 39 / 66 / 41 / 36 / 33 / 27 / 30
Munger.......2 / 2 / -- / 6 / 3 / 1 / 2 / 1 / 3 / 2 / 1 / 1

Dole...........47 / 24 / 79 / 41 / 49 / 45 / 57 / 44 / 42 / 42 / 47 / 45
Hagan........38 / 60 / 11 / 32 / 36 / 39 / 28 / 39 / 40 / 44 / 39 / 37
Cole.............2 / 1 / 2 / 6 / 4 / 1 / 2 / 2 / 3 / 2 / 4 / --

(Geographic notes: "Cha" is Charlotte. "Wes" is the Western region of the state. "P-T" is the Piedmont Triad. "Tri" is the Research Triangle. "NoE" is the Northeast. "SoE" is the Southeast.)

Dems Make NC Play

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has for months talked up the prospects of a close race in North Carolina, where State Senator Kay Hagan is running against first term Republican Elizabeth Dole. Now, the committee is putting its money where its mouth is, reserving around $5 million in advertising time in the state, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

That's a substantial sum in a state that didn't initially look like it would be competitive. Still, a new poll for Dole's campaign shows the incumbent leading by a wide margin, indicating Hagan may need the DSCC's help to pull back near even. The survey, conducted by The Tarrance Group, polled 550 likely voters between 7/7-9 for a margin of error of +/- 4.2%. Dole, Hagan and postal worker Christopher Cole, a Libertarian, were tested.

General Election Matchup
Dole................51
Hagan.............36
Cole..................6

Early polls showed the race much closer than the current 15-point gap, but Dole's advertising blitz in the past month looks like it paid off. After a series of advertisements Dole ran highlighting her work on immigration, the incumbent's lead ballooned from one within the margin of error to the current double-digit head start.

But Hagan had a strong fundraising quarter, and that's helped her seriously narrow the once-overwhelming cash advantage Dole had. Having raised $1.69 million from the end of the pre-primary period, on April 17, through the end of June, Dole spent $2.1 million and ended the quarter with $2.7 million on hand. Hagan raised $1.53 million in the same period and ended with $1.2 million in the bank.

The DSCC enjoys a substantial fundraising advantage over its Republican counterpart, though it's not as big a disparity as the two House committees. At the end of May, Democrats had a little less than a two-to-one advantage, with $38.5 million in the bank compared with $21.5 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. If Dole is in any further trouble, Republicans will be able to step in, but they'd certainly want to save their money for elsewhere.

Dole Ads Boost Lead

Early advertising can be effective, and North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole has flexed her financial muscle in recent weeks to build a bigger lead in what had looked like a surprisingly close fight for re-election. A new poll shows Dole with a much bigger lead over her Democratic opponent, and running ahead in virtually every region in the state.

The survey, conducted 6/11-13 by Tel Opinion Research on behalf of the Civitas Institute, polled 600 registered voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Dole, State Senator Kay Hagan and Libertarian candidate Chris Cole were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Dole.......48 / 25 / 83 / 38 / 51 / 45 (+3)
Hagan....38 / 61 / 7 / 38 / 33 / 41 (-5)
Cole..........1 / 1 / 0 / 3 / 1 / 1

Dole's lead is healthy in every region of the state except for the heavily Democratic Research Triangle region, where Hagan has a five-point lead, and in Hagan's home region, known as the Triad. Dole has also improved her standing among independent voters; the two are tied now, but last month's Civitas poll showed her trailing Hagan by twelve points.

Too, the Senator's choice to focus early advertising dollars on advertisements highlighting her work on curbing illegal immigration has paid off heavily. Among those who care most about illegal immigration, Dole boasts a 63%-20% lead over Hagan. Voters who say taxes and highway construction leads their priority list back Dole by wide margins as well. Those who care about the economy, the top issue in the poll, favor Hagan by a ten-point margin.

Dole is doing something about that deficit among voters who say the economy is the top issue. Last week, the campaign released a second advertisement focusing on her work on the economy, featuring testimonials from Tar Heels.

Hagan has raised eyebrows recently in Washington and North Carolina with strong fundraising performances and a series of polls before this one that show the Democrat running close to the incumbent Republican. Last week, she held a fundraiser with Democratic Senators Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, and Jon Tester, of Montana. Both candidates are expected to turn in big money numbers at the end of this quarter.

The latest RCP North Carolina Senate Average shows Dole leading by 7.5 points.

Hagan Internal: Dole Up 4

A new survey conducted for North Carolina State Senator Kay Hagan seems to confirm what is becoming a growing consensus in Washington: First-term incumbent Elizabeth Dole, despite sky-high name recognition and reasonably high favorable ratings, will face a difficult run for re-election this year, though she remains the favorite.

The poll, conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research, surveyed 800 likely voters from 5/14-21, beginning a week after Hagan won the Democratic primary, for a margin of error of +/- 3.5%. Dole and Hagan were tested.

General Election Matchup
Dole............48
Hagan.........44

Most polls aren't conducted over a span of eight days, but then again, most internal polls don't include 800 likely voters, either. And lest either campaign complain, John Anzalone and Jeff Liszt have earned their chops this year, having polled for winning Democratic candidates in special elections in Mississippi and Louisiana. How close are they on this poll? It would fit near the most recent survey to come out of the state and nails the latest RCP North Carolina Senate Average, which shows Dole leading by exactly four points.

In a polling memo sent to the campaign, snippets of which Hagan's camp will release this morning, Anzalone and Liszt call Dole's support soft and wonder whether the Republican has any place to grow. "There are few voters who don't already know [Dole], making it difficult for her to expand her support," the pollsters write.

Dole has yet to release her internal figures, but the senator's campaign released an advertisement last week focusing on her efforts to craft immigration reform legislation and her work with sheriffs from around the state. That advertisement, some North Carolina political watchers say, is less about Dole's efforts on immigration than about Dole's presence throughout the Tar Heel State.

Another Close NC Poll

After winning the Democratic primary by an easy margin earlier this month, North Carolina State Senator Kay Hagan has enjoyed a few weeks of increased attention from national observers. A new poll from a conservative-leaning North Carolina-based think tank shows that new attention could be merited, as many begin to anticipate a close re-election race for incumbent Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole.

The poll, conducted for the Civitas Institute by Tel Opinion Research, a Republican firm based in Virginia, surveyed 800 likely voters between 5/14-17 for a margin of error of +/- 3%. Dole and Hagan were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Dole......45 / 23 / 78 / 35 / 48 / 42
Hagan...43 / 65 / 13 / 47 / 37 / 49

Both candidates have room to grow among their own base, but Dole has significant ground to make up among independent voters. Hagan, too, could benefit from Barack Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket; while the Illinois Senator is unlikely to win the Tar Heel State, he could boost African American turnout, a group that backs Hagan by a huge margin, according to the poll.

This isn't the first poll showing a close race. A late April poll showed Hagan down just seven points, while one automated dial poll had the Democrat leading by a single point. Dole, though, has a long way to go before national Republicans need to start panicking. Just a few weeks before the primary, Dole held a commanding ten-to-one financial lead over Hagan, with $3.16 million on hand compared with Hagan's $317,000.

Dole has started using her financial advantage early. The campaign released a positive advertisement touting Dole's work on immigration in cities around the state. The spot, which features town and county sheriffs praising Dole's efforts to find and deport illegal immigrants, serves another purpose as well. Hagan's campaign has already signaled that they will criticize the incumbent for being out of state too much, but Dole "went all over North Carolina," says one sheriff in the ad.

While immigration may not be the number one priority of North Carolina voters, using the geography shows Dole's team is working to build an impression that the senator is always in town. "On one level, the Dole ad is not about immigration at all," said one Washington Republican with extensive experience in North Carolina. The subtle message: From Beaufort to Raefort, Greensboro, Hendersonville, Lexington, Mocksville and Salisbury, Dole has spent significant time in the state.

Polls continue to show a close race, and that will likely fuel strong fundraising performances for both candidates in the months to come. But while Dole remains a favorite ahead of November, the contest will be one to keep an eye on.

Dole, Hagan To Face Off

State Senator Kay Hagan easily bested her primary opponents last night in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, taking 60% of the vote to just 18% for her closest rival, developer Jim Neal. Hagan will now face what could be a monumental struggle to unseat first-term incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole in November.

Hagan was not the initial choice of Washington Democrats, who pursued outgoing Governor Mike Easley and several other potential candidates before coalescing around her. But during her time on the trail, Hagan has showed a prolific fundraising ability, raking in a whopping $1.5 million so far. She spent most of that during the primary season, reporting just $317,000 on hand as of the middle of April, but her ability to raise money should keep her at least competitive with Dole.

But Dole has advantages of her own. With $3.15 million in the bank, she starts the general election contest with a huge head start, and Dole is virtually universally known throughout the state. Polls have showed most voters have a favorable opinion of her and say she's doing a good job in office, making Hagan's task that much more difficult.

National Democrats, replete with money to spend on Senate races, might wade in to North Carolina if they see encouraging poll numbers. If Democrats are to have a chance to win a huge Senate majority, they will need to do so on the backs of states like North Carolina, where second-tier contests will be a serious challenge. Dole remains a heavy favorite at the moment, but she will have to pay attention to her state's political winds to make sure she stays that way.

Hagan The Next Webb?

On a day when Mark Warner declares his candidacy for a Senate seat in Virginia that appears to be his for the taking, one might recall Senator Jim Webb's upset of incumbent Republican George Allen as the biggest surprise in 2006. This year, if Democrats are to achieve any measure of massive majority in the Senate, they will need at least one more Jim Webb to come along and upset someone thought to be an entrenched incumbent.

Two new surveys in North Carolina show that the state may be this year's answer to Virginia in 2006, especially given what is likely to be a blowout in the Democratic primary. The first, a Mason-Dixon poll, surveyed 400 likely Democratic primary voters between 4/28-29 on behalf of WRAL-TV, for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Hagan, investment banker Jim Neal, attorney Marcus Williams, truck driver Duskin Lassiter and Howard Staley, a doctor, were tested.

Primary Election Matchup
(All / Men / Wom)
Hagan 42 / 34 / 48
Neal 17 / 21 / 14
Williams 5 / 5 / 5
Lassiter 2 / 2 / 2
Staley 1 / 2 / --

Initially, Hagan and Neal were polling neck and neck, but after a blitz of television advertising and stronger than expected fundraising numbers, Hagan has pulled out to a big lead. If Hagan pulls off a big win in tomorrow's primary election, it could give her a boost as she begins to target incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole.

A Dole-Hagan matchup could prove a close contest, as a new poll from Research 2000 suggests. The survey, taken 4/28-30 on behalf of DailyKos, tested 600 likely general election voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Hagan, Neal and Dole were tested.

General Election Matchups
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Dole 48 / 15 / 87 / 47 / 52 / 44 (+2 from last, 12/07)
Hagan 41 / 70 / 8 / 39 / 38 / 44 (+2)

Dole 49 / 16 / 87 / 49 / 53 / 45 (+2)
Neal 39 / 67 / 8 / 38 / 36 / 42

In a general election match, Hagan would start as a distinct underdog. Through the April 16 filing deadline (later because the state's primaries are so close to the end of the quarter), Hagan had just $317,000 in the bank, a tenth of Dole's $3.15 million. And in a state John McCain is likely to carry no matter the Democratic presidential nominee, convincing down-ballot voter to split their tickets could be difficult.

But Hagan has raised an impressive $1.52 million, much of which she has spent on making the primary with Neal a blowout. And trailing by just seven points in public polls is on par with Webb and others from the 2006 cycle; a Democratic poll taken in late June, 2006, showed Webb trailing Allen by a 46%-39% margin, and a Mason-Dixon poll in late July had Allen leading by a whopping 16 points. And Hagan's campaign brags that only Missouri's Claire McCaskill and Ohio's Sherrod Brown have raised more money through the First Quarter of 2006.

Beating Dole, a well-known incumbent, will be difficult. But Hagan starts out with relatively high name recognition -- 44% view her favorably, while just 25% view her unfavorably and 31% have no opinion. Dole has the same 44% favorable rating, though 41% say they view her unfavorably, which could be a problem for the incumbent down the line. Barring any mistakes, Dole will remain the favorite heading into the fall. At the moment, though, Hagan looks poised to capitalize on any slip up, and there's a long way to go before November.

Still Running Against DC

Two Democrats, up with their first advertisements of the year, are showing that challengers can still run against Washington, D.C., even when their party controls Congress. The candidates, Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley and North Carolina State Senator Kay Hagan, launched both ads this week in advance of their respective primaries on May 20 and May 6.

"Tired of his party's inaction, Jeff Merkley led Democrats back to power," Merkley's 30-second ad begins. In the state Senate, Hagan's ad claims, she "brought change," "but now, Washington is broken and needs the kind of change Kay represents." The lines in each ad show what comes of a Congressional approval rating in the low twenties, according to the latest RCP Congressional Average.

Both Democrats are the national party's favored choice to take on Republican incumbents Gordon Smith, in Oregon, and Elizabeth Dole, in North Carolina. And while some Republicans suggest Congress' poor approval rating could hurt Democrats in November, the new congressional majority still enjoys a big generic ballot lead in recent polls. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out earlier this month shows voters prefer a Democratic-led Congress by a 49% to 35% margin over a GOP-controlled legislature, and Democrats lead by 10.4% in the latest RCP Generic Ballot Average.

"The common refrain we hear from people all across the state is that they feel as though Washington has forgotten about them," Hagan communications director Colleen Flanagan told Politics Nation. "Kay has a proven record that shows she's been working for North Carolinians for years." Republicans in challenger races around the country have also made attacking Washington a priority, and it looks like neither party is going to give the nation's capitol a break.

EMILY's List Hits Primaries

EMILY's List, an outspoken and powerful group that backs women candidates running as pro-choice Democrats, has waded in to two more primaries in recent days, bolstering a front-runner and an underdog in North Carolina and Virginia. Whether the organization will do harm or good in at least one of those contests, though, is still up in the air.

The group, whose endorsement comes with access to a wealthy and vast fundraising list, is backing former Rep. Leslie Byrne, a Democrat running to replace retiring Virginia Republican Tom Davis, and North Carolina State Senator Kay Hagan, who is running for the right to face Senator Elizabeth Dole in November.

In the Tar Heel State, the endorsement was bestowed upon the leading Democratic candidate. Hagan faces investment banker Jim Neal in the May 6 primary, and with an electoral base and impressive early fundraising, looks to be the likely nominee. Through the end of the year, Hagan had $515,000 in the bank, about three times what Neal had stored up. Both candidates trail Dole by a wide margin; she had almost $2.7 million on hand through December.

It's not the first race EMILY's List is involved with in North Carolina. Earlier, the group announced its backing of Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue, in what has become a contentious Democratic primary for governor with State Treasurer Richard Moore.

While Hagan may be a safe choice for the group, the decision to back Byrne in Virginia will be more contentious. The Eleventh District, which Davis has represented since 1994, is one of the most narrowly split districts in the country, giving President Bush just a 2,000 vote win in 2004. Based in rapidly-expanding Northern Virginia, the area is ripe for a Democratic takeover, especially considering the recent strong performance of state Democrats.

But many believe Byrne isn't the candidate for the job. Nominated for Lieutenant Governor in 2005, she lost to Republican Bill Bolling even as Democrat Tim Kaine took the top job, largely on the strength of impressive vote totals in the Washington suburbs and exurbs. Local Democrats have better feelings toward Fairfax County Council chairman Gerry Connolly, though Byrne's name recognition and base -- she was the incumbent Democrat Davis beat in 1994 -- make her a tough competitor in the primary.

EMILY's List's role in the race became more evident this week when the group paid for part of a mailing slamming Connolly for "bullying" tactics on the supervisors' board, the Washington Post reported today, and for hiding relationships with organizations that eventually got contracts with the county. Byrne's campaign paid for the rest of the mailing.

Connolly, who released a poll recently showing him with a two-to-one lead over Byrne, hit back hard, accusing his rival of "swift boating" fellow Democrat Mark Warner during the 1996 Senate race and implied the future governor and now-Senate candidate was a racist.

The scrum is one of the first major blow-ups in a race that isn't expected to get any nicer. The winner of the June primary will face off with businessman Keith Fimian, for whom Davis cleared the GOP field. While the Democratic primary may be ugly, the party is favored to pick up the seat, as Politico's Josh Kraushaar wrote in his extensive look at the district this week.

Baseline Shows Dole Up

DailyKos continues their baseline poll series with a new look at Senator Elizabeth Dole's chances at re-election. The survey shows the once-embattled former NRSC chair in pretty good shape leading up to a potential second term.

The Research 2000 poll, taken between 12/16-18, sampled 600 likely voters. Dole, State Sen. Kay Hagan and banker Jim Neal were tested. The sample was made up of 42% Democrats, 38% Republicans and 20% independent and other voters.

General Election Matchups
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Dole 46 / 13 / 85 / 41 / 49 / 43
Hagan 39 / 67 / 7 / 38 / 36 / 42

Dole 47 / 14 / 85 / 44 / 49 / 45
Neal 37 / 64 / 7 / 37 / 36 / 38

Dole's favorable rating is not the best it could be -- just 46% view her favorably while 38% have an unfavorable view. And as Democrats are made more aware of her opponents and back them at rates higher than the mid-60% level, the race will likely close. Still, Dole will be well-funded, and her lead among independents is good news.

Both Neal and Hagan are little known. About 40% of respondents have never heard of them, while just 16% have no opinion of Dole. Each has a long way to go to toppling an incumbent, but as the poll demonstrates, their tasks are difficult but not impossible.

Dole Gets An Opponent

After a disastrous term at the helm of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2006, after months of headlines questioning her retirement plans and months of giddy Democrats pointing to her sinking approval rating, Sen. Elizabeth Dole looked like she might face a tough race for re-election next year. Now, after several top-tier Democrats took their names out of contention, Dole will face either investment banker Jim Neal or State Sen. Kay Hagan.

Hagan took her own name out of contention three weeks ago but has changed her mind, the AP reports today. Hagan's entry comes a week after Neal said publicly that he is gay, though she said his sexual orientation had nothing to do with her candidacy.

Even without a Democratic primary to drain the eventual nominee's bank accounts, Dole is in much better shape now than she's looked for several years. Having stockpiled over $2.3 million through the end of the third quarter, even her approval rating is climbing steadily. A poll conducted in late September by Elon University showed 50% of North Carolinians approving of her job performance, while just 25% disapproved. A Voter/Consumer Research poll, conducted for Dole, showed her job approval at 64% in mid-September, up three points from a June survey.

The fact that Dole has conducted two polls in the past few months shows that she won't take 2008 lightly. That can be good news for Republicans: The senator is unlikely to be surprised by any Democratic challenger. Democrats with a glass-half-full attitude can find good news, too: With Dole focusing on her own race, she will have less time to stump and fundraise for other candidates.

Neither Neal nor Hagan has filed with the FEC, and with a $2 million gap to make up, it is Dole's opponents, rather than the senator herself, who face a mountain the size of Kilimanjaro.