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North Carolina Key to Senate Control

North Carolina Key to Senate Control

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. (Gerry Broome, AP)

Wednesday, 02 November 2016 11:53 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The key to who controls the Senate may rest with just one state: North Carolina.

National political experts agree that the Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Democrat Deborah Ross could be pivotal to which party holds a majority in the Senate, now with 54 Republican seats to 46 Democratic seats.

With this four-seat margin, Republicans cannot afford to lose Burr's seat, and polls show him struggling to get out of a statistical dead heat. A just-completed Charlotte Observer poll showed that among likely voters statewide, Burr leads Ross by 46-to-44 percent. The Observer poll also showed Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump among North Carolina voters by the percentage.

“There are eight competitive Senate races, seven with Republican incumbents and one relinquished by a Democrat [Harry Reid of Nevada],” veteran political scientist Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute told me. “But North Carolina is a key. There is deep dissatisfaction with [GOP Gov. Pat] McCrory, which has really activated Democrats; Burr has kept an exceptionally low profile; and Trump has proven to be a drag with educated whites and minorities."

The critical importance of the tight contest between two-termer Burr and Ross was underscored by President Obama’s campaign trip to the Tar Heel State Wednesday.

Republicans, in turn, are edgy over Burr’s seat. The super PAC of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has poured more than $20 million into North Carolina on Burr’s behalf.


The too-close-to-call contest made national news earlier this week when Burr joked to a crowd that he saw a picture of Clinton in a gun shop and was “surprised it didn’t have a bulls-eye on it.” (The senator later apologized.)

“It shouldn’t surprise you that a statewide race for anything in North Carolina is close,” Carter Wrenn, longtime top political operative for the late Republican Sen. Jesse Helms  said. “Barack Obama won his closest race for a state in 2008 when he carried North Carolina by less than 16,000 votes out of more than 2 million cast. And in 2012, Mitt Romney won his closest race for a state right here by carrying North Carolina by 2 percent of the vote. It’s always going to be competitive here.”

Wrenn’s view was seconded by Raleigh’s Republican former Mayor Tom Fetzer, who also pointed out that “four out of 10 votes will be cast from Raleigh and Charlotte, where there has been a big influx of new residents from out of state.”

Fetzer felt that Burr would be put over the top by an independent TV salvo slamming Ross for her opposition to a register for sex offenders while she was state head of the American Civil Liberties Union.


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The key to who controls the Senate may rest with just one state: North Carolina.
burr, north carolina, mitch mcconnell
Wednesday, 02 November 2016 11:53 AM
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