Poll: GOP Sen. Burr Vulnerable — And Somewhat Unknown In His Home State

ZUMA Press/Newscom

The new survey of North Carolina by Public Policy Polling (D) continues to show that Sen. Richard Burr is on shaky ground, with very low approval ratings — but nevertheless, he is still able to lead potential 2010 Democratic opponents for now.

Burr’s approval rating is only 38%, which would usually be considered abysmal for an incumbent. Interestingly, his disapproval is only 32%, with a whopping 29% undecided. Burr leads a generic Democrat by 45%-38%, and has various leads over named Democrats. For example, he leads Sec. of State Elaine Marshall — who recently filed paperwork to create a campaign committee, but has not yet formally announced a candidacy — by 42%-31%.

It’s not that he’s unpopular — it’s that in the time since he was first elected in 2004, he has thus far failed to actually make an impression on the voters.The pollster’s analysis suggests that the outlook for this race could depend on the national climate: “Burr’s standing has improved a little bit as the climate has gotten worse for Democrats nationally but if Barack Obama’s approval starts heading back in the right direction this race has the potential to be a toss up.”

PPP communications director Tom Jensen points out to me that GOP Sen. Elizabeth Dole had a 48% approval rating at this point in 2007, and led Democrat Kay Hagan by 43%-27%. Hagan won that race by 53%-44%, in a Democratic wave. “Burr’s current leads are pretty flimsy and due largely to low name recognition of his potential opponents,” says Jensen.