Richard Burr has mediocre approval numbers but leads all of his anonymous Democratic opponents. Sound familiar? Not much is changing in the North Carolina Senate race on a month to month basis, and it's unlikely that much will until the Democratic candidates start running tv ads.
NC voters are evenly divided on Burr this time around with 35% approving of him and 35% unhappy with his performance. He leads Elaine Marshall 43-33, Cal Cunningham 44-32, and Kenneth Lewis 44-31.
Those early leads over the Democrats have a lot to do with how anonymous each of them is. Even Marshall has only 29% name recognition, and Kenneth Lewis and Cal Cunningham are even more obscure at this juncture with 17% and 15% of voters with an opinion about each of them respectively.
Marshall and Cunningham actually both lead Burr with those few voters that know who they are, suggesting a race that could become more competitive once Democrats have a nominee. That's exactly what happened in 2008 when Kay Hagan went from trailing by double digits in the polls over the winter to toss up status by May after she had introduced herself to voters during her primary campaign.
Of course 2010 is a completely different animal than 2008. Voters may be even angrier at the Democrats now than they were at the Republicans then. And Barack Obama won't be at the top of the ticket to drive turnout from key Democratic constituencies. Those factors both work to Burr's advantage.
But Burr has still only defined himself positively with a third of the voters, and with Louisiana Senator David Vitter now posting 20+ point leads against his Democratic opponent in some polling there's not much doubt Burr is the most vulnerable Republican incumbent running for reelection this year. That virtually ensures there will be a lot of outside money spent to aid the eventual Democratic nominee just as there was last time around.
Burr could lose this race but he could also keep his current double digit lead all the way through November- it's really hard to say at this point how it's going to shake out.
Full results here