PPP looked at seven potential challengers to Richard Burr last week and found the incumbent leading them all by varying degrees:
-He has an 11 point advantage over Elizabeth Edwards (46-35) and Dan Blue (44-33)
-He has a 13 point lead over Richard Moore (47-34)
-He has a 16 point edge on Bob Etheridge (47-31) and Heath Shuler (44-28)
-He has a 19 point margin over Walter Dalton (48-29)
We also tested Cal Cunningham, providing a two sentence biography of him as part of the question to compensate for his low name recognition, and found him trailing by just eight points (42-34). That's an important reminder that having a good story to tell is more important for potential challengers to Burr than initial name id, a lesson that was learned well in the laborious Democratic recruitment saga of 2008 that ended up with a winner in Kay Hagan.
This is also an appropriate spot for a reminder that when we tested Mike McIntyre against Burr last month he trailed by just five points.
All of these potential candidates hold Burr under the 50% mark generally considered safe for an incumbent.
There is some good news for Burr in the numbers. He holds at least a double digit lead among independents in every one of the potential match ups, continuing a trend PPP is finding with those voters across the country that may indicate some folks will be voting for divided government next year to keep Democrats from consolidating too much power.
Pulling together all the information we have, here's the state of the race: when Roy Cooper decided not to run Democrats lost the only candidate who would have made this an instant tossup. But Richard Burr is still in a vulnerable position pretty comparable to where Elizabeth Dole found herself at this time two years ago. But whoever the Democratic standard bearer ends up being will have to be molded into a formidable candidate, as Hagan was, rather than just inherently starting out as one. Now Democrats are going to have to make a choice- do they get a Shuler or McIntyre who have big bank accounts and a good position from which to raise more or do they go more towards a Cunningham who might need more help raising money but can run as an outsider in an election cycle where not having any Washington taint could be a very good thing? It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Full results here.