Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 not a good year for top incumbents

In yesterday's blog I posted comments by Tom Jensen, analyst at Public Policy Polling, about Democrat Bev Perdue's bad popularity numbers and the mid-year "fumbles" that helped make her among the eight least popular governors in the country.

Today Jensen has bad news for Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who faces reelection in 2010. Like Perdue, Burr has popularity numbers that distinguish him in a negative way, though earlier this year his numbers got better for a while. Now he is among the most vulnerable U.S. senators running next year, Jensen says. Here's his take on Burr:

Richard Burr's poll numbers this month are the worst they've been since June, and it's increasingly clear he's the most vulnerable Republican Senator in the country up for reelection next year.

A poll by the conservative Civitas Institute released yesterday showed Burr trailing a generic Democratic opponent. Our newest survey finds him with just a one point lead, 42-41, against a generic Dem and also finds his approval rating in negative territory at 35/37.

Burr's numbers had been improving through most of the second half of 2009 as the political climate worsened for Democrats nationally. After trailing by three points on the generic ballot in June his position gradually got better to the point where he led by 11 points on that measure in our October survey. Over the last two months though his standing has started to worsen again, as the advantage dropped to seven points in November and now down to just a single point.

Burr's fall is occurring with independents. Where he held generic ballot leads of 20 and 21 points with them on the last two surveys, he has just a 40-36 advantage with them on this month's poll. The conservative Civitas survey actually showed a generic Democrat leading Burr 30-23 with independents.

Burr continues to lead over all of his actual Democratic opponents. Elaine Marshall comes the closest at a 42-37 deficit, her best performance yet in polling against Burr. Kenneth Lewis and Cal Cunningham both match or exceed their strongest numbers so far as well, trailing Burr 43-37 and 45-36 respectively.

None of the Democratic candidates are particularly well known to the state's voters at this point. 81% don't know enough about Cunningham to have an opinion, 80% say the same of Lewis, and 69% do of Marshall. Looking toward the primary 28% of Democrats have a favorable opinion of Marshall to 12% for Cunningham and 10% for Lewis.

To put the current state of the race into perspective, Elizabeth Dole led Kay Hagan 51-39 in a poll we conducted at this same point in the election cycle two years ago.
One thing that continues to hurt is Burr is his relative anonymity across the state. Although the media and pundits have commented repeatedly on the fact that Burr has been more visible than Dole was, only 38% of actual voters share that sentiment to 34% who think that Dole was more visible.

Regardless of the present dip in Burr's poll numbers 2010 is still going to be a far better year for Republicans than 2008 was. But because there are a limited number of vulnerable Republican incumbents this seat is likely to be a top priority for national Democrats, and it looks like North Carolina once again will have one of the most competitive races in the country.

This analysis is also available on our blog:
http://publicpolicypolling.blogspot.com/2009/12/burr-in-tough-shape.html

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Burr comes across like a reactionary politician, rather than a progressive voice for North Carolina’s future.

These Conservatives need to enjoy their days as thorns in the side of a progressive America. My guess is that their days are numbered.

The lesson learned about straight GOP ticket voting, and lilly-white racial voting will be a painful one.

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Anonymous said...

Burr is safe, b/c a Generic candidate is really just a vote that they don't really care for Burr. But when there is an actual Democratic candidate its those little things like there liberal views that get in the way and make people dislike them even more.

I laugh every time I see someone talk about Progressives. Liberals coined the term b/c they realized that their own name had become a negative conotation. The only progress they are making is to bankrupt this country!

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Anonymous said...

I laugh everytime I see someone talk about Conservatives. Reactionaries coined the term because they wanted folks to mistake them for true Conservatives like Barry Goldwater.
Actually, all of them in these parts are Dixiecrats.

Anonymous said...

Voters in the next election cycle need to demand that their candidates support term limits for congress and real campaign finance reform. Unfortunately the American political system has been hijacked by extremists on both sides of the aisle. While moderates on both sides of the aisle who views more closely mirror the American publics the wingnuts on both sides rise to positions of power (Pelosi, McConnel, Rangel, Frank, Boehner, etc..) It's time for the days of professional politicians to end.

Anonymous said...

Burr will be fine, w/ no Obama on the ticket, the idiots that put CLUELESS in office will be clueless that their is an election. The Democrats that rode his coat-tail have all proved worthless.

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