There's good news for both Elaine Marshall and Richard Burr in PPP's newest poll of the North Carolina Senate race.
The good news for Marshall is that she's picking up undecided voters and closing the gap against Burr. She now trails by 8 points, 48-40, after facing a 13 point deficit against Burr three weeks ago. She's starting to shore up her support with the base, getting 73% of Democrats compared to 65% in the previous poll.
And that base is getting larger as the level of interest from Democratic voters picks up with the election moving closer. In late September the likely voter pool for this year voted for John McCain by a 9 point margin, suggesting a massive drop in Democratic turnout given that Barack Obama actually won the state. Now the likely voter pool reflects an electorate that supported McCain by 4 points, still pointing to a decline in Democratic turnout but perhaps not as massive as it looked like it would be earlier in the cycle.
There's good news for Burr in the poll numbers as well, beyond the obvious fact that he continues to lead. Although Marshall has picked up support Burr is not really losing it. His 48% is basically identical to the 49% he was getting on the previous poll and is awfully close to crossing the 50% mark he needs to clinch a victory. He continues to hold a remarkable 52-24 advantage with independents. If that holds on through election day it's hard to see a scenario where Marshall wins.
Interestingly the 42% of voters with a favorable opinion of Marshall actually exceeds the 40% who approve of Burr's job performance. You might expect Marshall to be polling closer with that as the case but casting a shadow over her is Barack Obama's high level of unpopularity in the state. 54% of voters disapprove of the job he's doing as President to only 41% who approve and there's a near total correlation between how voters feel about Obama and how they're planning to vote in the Senate race. Only 4% of voters who approve of Obama are planning to vote for Burr. But only 6% who disapprove of Obama are planning to vote for Marshall. That makes her path to victory tough when a majority of voters fall into the disapprove category.
Burr appears to be in good shape but Marshall does find herself in the strongest position she's been in in over a month and we'll see if she can continue that momentum over the final two weeks.
Full results here