Following two debates and the airing of Secretary of State Elaine Marshall’s first TV ads of the general election, PPP finds Democrat Marshall behind incumbent Republican Senator Richard Burr only 48%-40%, with Libertarian Michael Belittler’s share continuing to fall. Burr was up 49-36-4 in the previous poll in late September.
Marshall only went on the air to advertise a week ago, but 63% claim to have seen her ads. 75% say that of Burr’s spots, which have been running for several weeks. Possibly explaining his Republican Party unity advantage and huge lead with unaffiliated voters is that far more of both have seen his ads than Marshall’s.
Tim Phillips, Marshall’s Campaign Manager said, “After just one week of TV, Marshall’s support has surged. Senator Burr’s spent millions of dollars and over seven weeks on the air, but his support remains stuck below 50 and Democrats are dominating early vote. Going into the election the momentum is clearly on our side.”
Marshall is now getting 73% of her party’s support, up from 65%, and even pulling a few more Republicans, at 6%, up from an almost nonexistent 1% last month. But Burr still has 16% of Democrats, down from 20% in September but still far higher crossover support than most candidates are getting in other races.
Combine that with a persistent more than two-to-one lead for Burr with non-affiliated voters, and he is still favored somewhat comfortably.
The main culprit for the tightening of the race is a closure in the so-called “enthusiasm gap” that, still favors Republicans; it has dropped and is now only four points. Despite her severe monetary disadvantage, Marshall would be trailing only 46%-43%, if she and Burr were facing the same voter set as in 2008’s election, when Barack Obama led the ticket for Democrats.
There’s good news for Senator Richard Burr in the poll numbers. He continues to lead, and although Marshall has picked up support, Burr is not really losing it. His 48% is basically identical to the 49% he was getting in the previous poll in September and is awfully close to crossing the 50% mark he needs to clinch a victory.
Burr continues to hold a remarkable 52-24 advantage with independents. If that holds on through Election Day in two weeks, it’s hard to see a scenario where Marshall can come from behind to win.
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 since that is 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 her in the strongest position she’s been in for over a month.