The latest poll from PPP looks at the numbers for Sen. Richard Burr and Gov. Pat McCrory, both Republicans and both up for reelection in 2016. Their situations at this point looks markedly different. While Burr leads all of his potential challengers in this poll by double-digits, McCrory’s lead is much more tenuous and his approval rating makes it look like he’s on shaky ground.
Let’s go through the poll and compare it with what PPP found last month.
42% Approve (no change)
53% Disapprove (+2)
36% Approve (-4)
45% Disapprove (+1)
Last month, McCrory had a -4 net approval rating. This month, he’s at -9, his worst numbers in about a year. We’ll need other polls to confirm if there’s been a dip in his ratings. For what it’s worth, the polls are all over the place regarding Gov. McCrory’s standing and always have been. PPP generally shows his numbers the worst, Elon somewhere in the middle, and High Point tends to give him good ratings.
27% Favorable (-7)
23% Unfavorable (+2)
Cooper’s numbers have returned to earth, so the last poll was probably a blip. If McCrory wants to get reelected with his current numbers, he’s going to have to raise Cooper’s negatives considerably.
44% McCrory (+1)
41% Cooper (no change)
Despite a drop in his approval, McCrory actually gains a point in the head-to-head. But the numbers aren’t good for him and are mostly a function of Cooper only being known to 50% of voters. Once Cooper becomes better-known, this race will become a true toss-up, perhaps leaning toward the Attorney General, at least if McCrory fails to improve in the eyes of NC voters.
36% Approve (+4)
37% Disapprove (no change)
Richard Burr is, once again, an unknown quantity, though his approval rating is a bit better than last month. If 2016 is a strong Democratic year, Burr will be in trouble. But Democrats have to find a good candidate first.
Favorability, Democratic Candidates for U.S. Senate
Martin 10/12 (-2)
Miller 15/17 (-2)
Blue 14/17 (-3)
Cowell 12/16 (-4)
Jackson 6/13 (-7)
Hagan 37/53 (-16)
PPP has this thing where they find voters assigning negative ratings by default to people they don’t know about, and all the Democrats are pretty much unknown. There’s just one exception: Kay Hagan, but her name recognition isn’t a good thing. Her favorable rating is the lowest by far of any of the candidates. Other than Hagan, the best known is former U.S. Congressman Brad Miller, but he’s said he has no desire to run. After him is State Sen. Dan Blue, who surprisingly is better known to voters than State Treasurer Janet Cowell. Rep. Grier Martin and Miller are the best-liked of the candidates, but they’re still underwater favorability-wise.
Senate Race, Head-to-Head
46% Burr (+2)
35% Cowell (-3)
50% Burr (no change)
38% Hagan (-5)
None of the Democratic candidates against Burr look particularly impressive, but that’s because all of them suffer from low name recognition. This continues to look like a contest that will be on the fringe of competitiveness: if Democrats have a good year, Burr will be a target. But in a Republican-leaning to neutral year, Burr will be favored. Hillary Clinton is probably going to have to carry NC for Democrats to knock off our senior senator.
Lieutenant Governor Race
Forest should be favored if he faces Coleman next year. Against anyone else, the race is a toss-up and will depend largely on what happens at the presidential level. Forest will probably underperform the GOP candidate for President so he’s going to have to work for reelection. Also, if McCrory is a one-termer, it’s hard to see Forest surviving, though it’s possible that he could win by facing a lackluster opponent.
30% Approve (+1)
40% Disapprove (no change)
Democrats probably wish Tillis was up for reelection in 2016. Otherwise, with presidential turnout, they would have a great chance at knocking him off. Unfortunately for them, they won’t be able to do so for another five and a half years.
The bottom line: this is a great poll for Burr, probably the best he’s ever fared in a survey from PPP. He’s not safe but he’s looking like a lesser target. On the other hand, McCrory might be the most vulnerable governor who goes before the voters in 2016 (there aren’t many). His numbers are weak and Roy Cooper will be a formidable challenger. The governor should hope his numbers follow the path of other GOP governors like John Kasich, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, and Scott Walker – all of whom looked very vulnerable at the start of their campaigns but were able to turn it around. There’s still more than enough time for McCrory to do so as well!