Three groups that rank U.S. Senate races are moving up North Carolina’s race, suggesting that Democrat Deborah Ross’ odds of defeating incumbent Sen. Richard Burr are improving.
Burr has been leading in opinion polls, with the exception of a new poll released this week that gave Ross a slight lead within the margin of error. And polls indicate that most voters still don’t have an opinion of Ross, a former state legislator from Raleigh. Neither campaign has started TV ads yet, and the two sides also haven’t agreed to debates yet.
Here’s how the analysts at National Journal, Real Clear Politics and The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report now view the race:
National Journal now ranks North Carolina as the seventh most competitive Senate race in the country, up from eighth in the publication’s previous ranking. “Former state Rep. Deborah Ross was considered one of Democrats’ weakest recruits this cycle, but she outraised Burr two quarters in a row, causing Republicans to begin raising the alarm bells about his campaign,” the article says. “No outside groups are spending here yet, but the Clinton campaign has made North Carolina a top priority, and a coinciding high-profile governor’s race looks likely to make life tougher for Burr.”
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Real Clear Politics, which aggregates polling data, moved the Ross-Burr race from “leans Republican” to “toss-up.” It’s now one of nine Senate races in the “toss-up” category. The site’s polling average hasn’t yet factored in Friday’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll that gave Ross a two-point lead, but its most recent polling average has Burr with a four-point lead.
Rothenberg & Gonzales this week moved the North Carolina race from “leans Republican” to “tilts Republican.” The new ranking is one step short of calling the contest a “toss-up” under the publication’s ranking system.
“Richard Burr has maintained an advantage over former state Rep. Deborah Ross,” analyst Nathan Gonzales wrote. “But running simultaneously with the polarizing Trump and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, and the increasingly competitive nature of the state could make the senator’s life more difficult. Burr doesn’t have a lot of room for error and strategists on both sides of the aisle expect a close race.”