Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Can North Carolina Democrats Replace Unpopular Obstructionist Richard Burr (R) With Deborah Ross (D)?


North Carolina Senator Richard Burr isn't all that popular back home and he'll have to face the voters in November in a race against former state Rep. and former North Carolina head of the ACLU, Deborah Ross. Last week, each won their respective primaries, Burr with 437,136 votes (61.9%) and Ross with 445,772 votes (63.3%). As of the February 24 FEC deadline Burr had spent $2,693,982 on his race and Ross had spent $635,999 on hers. He has a massive $5,312,89 war-chest and she has about $5 million less. (I might add that the industry that has been most generous to Burr this cycle is... the Securities and Investment folks (i.e., the banksters), which they look at as a good investment since he's on the Senate Finance Committee. #2 is Big Pharma. Anyway, what I meant my him not being popular was a reference to the polling on the topic. Survey USA asked the straight forward question of North Carolina voters and Burr was underwater-- 34% approve and 41% disapprove. Independents are especially not fond of him and only 28% approve, while 42% disapprove-- a bad signal.

A more recent poll-- PPP's this week-- found that his job approval hasn't improved: 32% approved and 40% disapproved. In a November match-up, he's polling ahead of Ross, who is still introducing herself to the voters. He beats her 40-35% with 7% going to the Libertarian and 17% undecided. Part of Ross' problem is that corrupt New York ward boss Chuck Schumer and the DSCC he controls didn't give up on their dream candidate, far right Blue Dog Heath Shuler until the very end. It sent a bad signal that Ross is just coming out from under.

PPP Director Tom Jansen's analysis warns that Trump could make life tough for Burr. He pointed out that "to put the current state of the race in perspective Elizabeth Dole led Kay Hagan by 5 points on our first poll after the primary in 2008 too, so Ross is starting her upset bid in a very similar place to where Hagan started hers."
Burr has indicated that he will support the Republican nominee for President regardless of who it is. We find that voters are less likely to vote for Burr by a 26 point spread if he supports Trump for President-- doing that would make 48% of voters in the state less inclined to vote for the incumbent compared to only 22% who would be more likely to vote for him. That's a good early indicator of the trouble Trump poses for his party. Another thing making life harder for Burr is the heavily damaged brand of Senate Republicans. Only 15% of voters in North Carolina approve of the job Mitch McConnell is doing, compared to 51% who disapprove. And one issue fueling that unpopularity is the intransigence on the Supreme Court seat-- 52% of North Carolinians want to see it filled this year, compared to just 41% who think it should be left empty.

“Richard Burr isn’t all that well known to voters in North Carolina even after two terms in the Senate,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “That leaves him susceptible to being defined by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, and that could make his reelection fight a lot tougher than expected.”

...It looks like Republicans are going to nominate either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz though, and they both trail the Democratic candidates by small margins. Clinton leads Trump 44/42, and Sanders has a 48/41 advantage over him.
Issues aren't on Burr's side either. He opposes the EPA on Climate Change regulations which voters approve of it 66-28% and he opposes raising the minimum wage while 76% of North Carolina voters approve raising it, compared to 12% who think it should stay where it is and 9% who want to abolish it. Perhaps more germane is the fight over the Merrick Garland nomination to the Supreme Court. Burr was quick to agree with Mitch McConnell (who has a 15% job approval rating among North Carolina voters) that the Senate should ignore Obama's nominee and not even grant him a hearing. North Carolina voters do not like that-- not at all. 52% say the position should be filled and only 41% say it shouldn't be. Another finding NRA darling Burr may have to tap dance around has to do with gun safety. By an 83/8 spread, voters in the state support requiring background checks on all gun purchases, with support for that coming from 89% of Democrats, 80% of independents, and 78% of Republicans.

Nor is Burr the only Republican senator previously considered "safe," who is now in trouble with voters back home. Roy Blunt represents Missouri, a purple state leaning towards the GOP. He was first elected to the Senate in a solid Republican year (2010) with 54% of the vote against a weak opponent. This time he'll face a more formidable opponent in Secretary of State Jason Kander. The most recent poll (November 1) showed Blunt leading Kander 43-33%. Yesterday, the Kansas City Star released a poll specifically about the Merrick Garland nomination, which found that 86% of respondents would like to see Garland get an up-or-down vote by the Senate. 82% said they agreed with that strongly. Blunt, of course, has backed McConnell's strategy of no meetings, no hearings, no vote, no, no, no, no... This is the question and the response that should have Blunt as concerned as he looks:

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