The post-primary bounce Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham received against Richard Burr has receded and the incumbent now leads them by 7 and 11 points respectively. That's up from a 1 point lead over Marshall and a 5 point one over Cunningham a month ago.
The Democratic contenders have been off the airwaves for more than a month now and as a result their name recognition, already low, has actually declined. Marshall dropped from 44% of voters having an opinion of her a month ago to now 37% and Cunningham's gone from 34% to 26%.
This development is in line with what happened in the 2008 Senate contest. Kay Hagan pulled to within 5 points of Elizabeth Dole immediately after the primary but after being back out of the spotlight for a month saw her deficit against Dole increase to 8 points by early June.
Voter perceptions of Burr remain relatively unchanged. For the fourth month in a row more North Carolinians disapprove than approve of the job he's doing- 37% give him more poor marks to 35% pleased with his performance.
There are two main places to point to where Burr's standing has improved. He's now up by 13 points with independents against both Democrats, after just having a single digit lead in May. And he's benefiting from the fact that there are a lot more undecided Democrats than Republicans. In the Marshall match 20% of Democrats haven't made up their minds to 7% of Republicans and in the Cunningham one that widens to 25% of Democrats undecided and just 9% of GOP voters. The race will likely tighten again as we move toward the fall and most of those voters come home to support their party's nominee.
The big picture on this race stays the same- Burr is unpopular but his opponents aren't well known enough yet to fully capitalize on his vulnerability. The eventual nominee's ability to seize the spotlight- and stay in it- will determine whether Democrats can pull the upset this fall.
Full results here