Is Burr early favorite?
Published 7:47 am Tuesday, March 30, 2010
By By JONATHAN CLAYBORNE
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has a lead in the polls and a sizable fundraising advantage over his potential Democratic challengers.
Those points are prompting leading Democrats in the field to spotlight Burrs record before their party chooses its nominee.
Some observers note that a lot of variables can come into play from now through November, meaning the incumbent might have to fend off a serious challenge at the polls.
Whatever the case, the Burr camp isnt mincing words when given a chance to tie Democrats to policies it asserts are unpopular with voters.
I believe the Democrats are trying to distract the American people from whats really going on, passing a health-care bill that Americans didnt want, said Samantha Smith, a spokeswoman for the Burr campaign.
Smith was responding to a political question about Burrs move to cancel a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee in protest of the health-care bills passage.
She referred further questions about the committee hearing to Burrs Senate office.
With the fur flying in the Senate contest, polls are providing a snapshot of voters thinking about the race.
A March 17 news release from Public Policy Polling shows Burr with a 41-percent-to-36-percent lead over his closest possible competitor, Elaine Marshall, North Carolinas Democratic secretary of state.
The other two Democratic front-runners are former state Sen. Cal Cunningham and Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis.
Six Democrats filed to run for this Senate seat, but the bottom three arent appearing on the polling radar.
Three Republican primary challengers filed to take on Burr, but the polls dont suggest that theyre serious threats to the incumbent.
PPP polled 878 state voters from March 12 through March 15, the news release reads.
In a Monday interview, Tom Jensen, director of PPP, said the next Senate poll is due out in two weeks.
Things have stayed very much the same in this race over the past few months, he said, adding that Burrs approval ratings have hovered in the 35- to 40-percent range for a year.
Recent polls have shown Burr leading the nearest Democrat by five to 12 points, Jensen said.
I wouldnt expect that to change until the summer at the earliest, he commented.
On the fundraising front, Burrs campaign committee had more than $4.3 million cash on hand at the end of the last campaign-reporting period, which closed on Dec. 31, 2009.
Burr has said he hopes to raise $15 million for his re-election bid, Smith confirmed.
Smith was asked why it would be necessary for Burr to raise such a large amount of money when hes well ahead of his Democratic opponents in terms of fundraising.
In response, Smith pointed to the 2008 Senate election, when, she said, the Democratic Party and other special-interest groups poured millions into Kay Hagans successful race to unseat Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C.
Once they secure the Democratic nomination, the national Democratic Party can pour in as much money as possible, she said.
Smith alleged that national Democrats had even gotten behind one of the Democratic primary candidates Cunningham.
I dont think theyve officially endorsed him, but I believe they were instrumental in swaying him to run, she said.
Angela Guyadeen, Cunninghams communications director, offered this e-mailed response: Senator Burr is going to need a lot more than just cash to explain to voters why he played partisan political games and shut down a committee hearing to discuss national security with high ranking military officials. Having spent nearly two decades standing up for special interests in Washington, we are pleased to see that Senator Burr can take notice of Cals message to create jobs and restore the economy for the people of North Carolina.
Marshalls campaign also weighed in on the money matter.
Richard Burr wants to raise $15 million because he can, said Thomas Mills, a consultant for Marshall. Hes been in the pocket of special interest ever since hes been in Washington.
Asked for a perspective on Cunninghams candidacy, Mills said, I think (Cunningham) was encouraged by a bunch of Washington insiders to get into the race.
Mills suggested the Marshall campaign isnt paying much attention to the origins of Cunninghams campaign.
Weve been steadily gaining momentum, Mills said.
On yet another front, the Democrats in the field have been busy picking up high-profile endorsements.
On Monday, Cunninghams campaign announced hes been endorsed by retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former presidential candidate.
Cunningham is an Iraq war veteran.
Lewis has been endorsed by U.S. Reps. Mel Watt and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.
Marshall has been endorsed by three national womens groups, the (Raleigh) News &Observer has reported. One of those groups is the National Organization for Women, Mills said.
Marshall has also won the support of the largest black political caucus in the state, the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Mills related.