The North Carolina Senate race continues to look very competitive, with Richard Burr's approval numbers hitting a record low and Elaine Marshall pulling within 2 points. Burr's at 39% to 37% for Marshall and 7% for Libertarian Michael Beitler.
The main thing that's changed since the last poll, when Burr led by 5, is that Marshall is shoring up her support from within the party. 65% of Democrats say they'll vote for her, up from 57% a month ago. Burr continues to lead because of a 44-25 advantage with independents and because with 73% Republican support his party is more unified around him than Marshall's is around her.
There's not much doubt the closeness of this race is more an indictment of Burr than a reflection of Marshall's popularity. The Democratic challenger continues to be largely an unknown to North Carolina voters with 58% saying they have no opinion of her. Among those who do 23% see her favorably and 19% unfavorably. But what's really changed since February when Burr held a ten point lead is perceptions of the incumbent. At that time voters split evenly on his job performance with 35% approving of him and 35% disapproving. Now just 32% approve with 44% disapproving.
Burr's numbers with Republicans are exactly what they were six months ago. But independents have gone from splitting evenly on him to disapproving by a 33/45 margin, and Democrats have hardened in their feelings with their level of disapproval rising from 50% to 62%.
The race is closer at this point than the Kay Hagan/Elizabeth Dole race was at the same point two years ago. PPP's late July poll of that contest found Dole leading Hagan 49-40. By late August Hagan took a lead she would never give back, but that was after a large amount of outside advertising attacking Dole over the course of that month. It does not seem likely that will be replicated this year, at least not at this early a stage.
Turnout in the Triangle may end up being the key to Marshall's chances. She trails in most of the state but has a 50-33 lead in the region where the greatest numbers of votes is likely to be cast and that's what's making the race competitive.
The number of voters who dislike Burr has been rising this year. The number who like him has not. The big question now is whether his millions will be able to get that turned around.
Full results here