Democrats got their more electable candidate for the fall by nominating Elaine Marshall to run against Richard Burr tonight. Qualitative arguments were made over the last six months that Cal Cunningham would be the stronger nominee but polling data has repeatedly shown that Marshall is the stronger candidate:
-PPP has tested both Marshall and Cunningham against Burr every month since August, and Marshall has polled closer to Burr in every single one of those polls. While that discrepancy could have been explained by Marshall's higher name recognition for a while, she continued to poll 4 points better against Burr even after Cunningham's television advertising campaign during the primary. On our May poll Burr led Marshall by 1 and Cunningham by 5 while on our June poll Burr led Marshall by 7 and Cunningham by 11.
-Marshall's favorability numbers are well above average for non-incumbents running for the Senate or Governor across the country. PPP has polled on 37 politicians seeking to win one of those offices over the last three months. Marshall's net favorability rating of +5 (21/16) ranks her in a tie for 6th most popular among those 37 challengers with Iowa Republican Gubernatorial hopeful Terry Branstad. The full chart showing how Marshall stacks up with the favorability numbers of other candidates across the country is available here.
Marshall is looking considerably more competitive against Richard Burr at this point in the election cycle than Kay Hagan did against Elizabeth Dole two years ago. Our most recent poll found Marshall down 46-39 to Burr. In late June of 2008 Dole led Hagan 51-37 in our polling. Certainly the 2010 election cycle is not shaping up as positively for Democrats as the 2008 one did. But Burr's approval numbers are weaker than Dole's were, his lead in the race at this point is smaller than Dole's was, and the fact that he is easily the most endangered Republican incumbent in the country should ensure this race gets a lot of national money poured into it. Burr is favored to win but it will be close, and Democratic voters ensured that today with their votes for Marshall.