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Politics 2010: Dems hope to steal a win in North Carolina

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International   |   May 2, 2010 at 6:06 AM   |   Comments

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Democrats are eying freshman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., as a potential political victim on Election Day in November.

Poor approval ratings and a low profile in the Tar Heel state are reasons Democratic Party strategists say they think Burr's seat is ripe for the picking.

Burr faces a tough primary challenge on Tuesday as well, squaring off against Eddie Burks, an Ashboro businessman and council member.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said during a recent appearance in Raleigh he sees North Carolina as a potential Senate pickup for the Democrats in the fall, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported.

"Senator Burr has some polling numbers that give us hope, in terms of re-elect approval," Durbin said. "I know most incumbents are struggling in both political parties. It appears to affect his race. I think we can make it a race."

If Burr survives the primary, he would face one of four Democrats -- Army veteran and frequent candidate John Hendrix, attorney Kenneth Lewis and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham and North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

Several Rasmussen scenarios in April indicate Burr would capture at least 50 percent of the vote when matched against either Marshall or Cunningham -- virtually unchanged from surveys conducted in February and March. Other polls indicate tighter races, with Burr capturing from 41 percent to 43 percent against Democratic nominees.

Some analysts said they consider Burr vulnerable -- despite his 50-percent-or-more against Marshall and Cunningham -- because no incumbent has been re-elected to the Senate seat he holds since 1968, Rasmussen said. However, Burr is benefiting from the hostile mood toward the healthcare plan and other recent government initiatives he has opposed.

Only 33 of North Carolina voters said they think the healthcare law will be good for the country, compared to 59 percent who said they expected it to be bad.

Barack Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to claim North Carolina since 1976 when he edged Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, 50 percent to 49 percent, in the 2008 election. Since then, however, his approval rating has dipped to 41 percent while 57 percent of voters disapprove, marking virtually no change from a month ago, Rasmussen said.

In North Carolina's 8th congressional district, eight Republicans are vying for a chance to face freshman Democratic incumbent Rep. Larry Kissell in November.

The Republican primary field also is crowded in North Carolina's 11th congressional district represented by Heath Shuler.

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