Recently the DC press has taunted North Carolina Democrats over our seeming inability to recruit a top-tier challenger to run against Richard Burr in 2010. While the DC press is looking for a big name, Democrats in North Carolina are looking a little deeper. We know we don't need what others might consider a "top-tier" candidate. Senator Richard Burr has never won a serious political challenge without the assistance of a turn in voter sentiment or long coattails from the top of the ticket.
In the latest approval ratings provided by Public Policy Polling more than a third of voters polled were undecided on how they feel about Richard Burr – or whether they even know who he is. In his hands the power of incumbency is greatly reduced.
To make matters worse for Burr - as if they could get worse - he has a team of amateurs running his campaign. Of course, when all you've had to do is sit back and ride a wave into office or grab onto George Bush's coattails, you don't have to know anything about actually running a campaign.
Burr first ran for office in North Carolina's 5th Congressional District against a popular Democratic incumbent, Steve Neal. In what has been his only competitive race, Burr lost handily. The following cycle, Neal decided against running for re-election leaving the seat open for the first time in 18 years.
Burr won in 1994 but not without the help of Newt Gingrich, his Contract with America and a wave of public opinion that favored Republicans nationally. During the ten years he represented the 5th District, Burr never faced strong opposition in a campaign. This is, after all, the same district that continues to return Virginia Foxx to the House each cycle. It doesn’t take much more than an “R” after your name to get elected in this district.
After proving his lapdog creds in the House, Burr was recruited by Karl Rove to run in the 2004 Senate race. Burr rode the coattails provided by President George Bush and found himself in the United States Senate where he quietly hid for almost five years doing the bidding of the Bush Administration.
Now, Burr finds himself barely beating an unnamed opponent, though his chances may be improving according to Public Policy Polling.
Richard Burr's approval ratings are as mediocre as ever and he's still polling under 50% against every Democrat under the sun, but he's looking better for reelection right now than he has in about four years.
It's not even because Democrats don't have a name candidate against him yet- that didn't hurt them two years ago- it's simply because the winds are blowing in a Republican direction right now and if it continues that way they'll most likely take him along with.
Jensen may very well be right that Burr can win if fair winds continue to blow for Republicans. It’s the only way he has won in the past and may be the only way he can win.