PPP's newest survey finds Richard Burr polling under the magic 50% mark against two Democrats with virtually no positive statewide name recognition.
He is up 44-30 against former US Senate candidate Jim Neal and 46-27 against former state Senator Cal Cunningham.
Burr isn't exceeding 50% against these guys even though Neal is only viewed favorably by 15% of North Carolina voters and Cunningham by just 10%.
Burr's approval rating actually has hit its highest level in a PPP survey, with 41% of voters approving of his performance compared t0 34% who disapprove. A month ago it was 33/30. His improvement on that front has largely come from playing to the base: in January only 54% of Republicans reported approving of the job he was doing and that number is now up to 70% after a period where he was very visible in opposing the economic stimulus package that most Republican voters share an opposition to. His net approval among Democrats has actually worsened over the last month, going from 18/40 (-22) to 21/52 (-31). He's remained pretty steady with independents, going from +7 last month to +8 this time.
Neal and Cunningham don't appear to stand a chance of even getting out of the primary if one of the better known potential Democratic candidates like Roy Cooper or Heath Shuler ends up making the race. Even among Democrats only 26% have a favorable opinion of Neal and just 18% have a positive view of Cunningham.
Finally, every time we do one of these polls on Burr it seems relevant to compare his standing to where Elizabeth Dole was at this time two years ago. In February 2007 PPP found Dole with a 43/31 approval rating, a net five points better than where Burr stands today. That poll also found her winning a hypothetical match up against Bob Etheridge, a stronger potential candidate than the two we tested against Burr this month, by a comparable 45-30 margin. Burr continues to be in a weaker position politically than the defeated Dole was at the same time in the last election cycle.
Previously PPP found Cooper leading Burr 39-34, and Burr leading Shuler 39-28.
Full results here.