Incumbent Republicans Sen. Richard Burr still maintains a small five point lead over Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall in the North Carolina according to Public Policy Polling.

PPP (PDF) (8/27-29)
Richard Burr (R) 43
Elaine Marshall (D) 38
Michael Beitler (L) 6
Undecided 13

Mashall benefits from the fact that voters on net slightly disapprove of Burr’s job performance. While she has net favorable numbers among likely voters (25% favorable – 21% unfavorable) she poorly known in the state. A solid majority of voters know too little about her or are not sure how they view her. This does mean if she can afford to run a strong race there is at least the potential for improvement once she is able to make contact with more voters.

While trailing by five points is not a “good” place to be two months before the election it is within distance against an unpopular incumbent. Marshall is actually polling slightly better than some top tier recruits in open races that have been assumed to be better opportunities for Democrats.

Like all Democrats this year she is suffering because of the general mode of the country and for the mistakes of her party. Among likely voters in North Carolina 54% disapprove of Obama’s job performance while only 43% that approve. His big health care law is very unpopular in the state. Only 40% support it while 55% oppose it.

The voter enthusiasm gap is significantly hurt Marshall. According to Tom Jensen at PPP:

Marshall’s winning 77% of Obama voters and Burr’s winning 76% of McCain voters so if the turnout patterns this year were the same as in 2008 we’d have a tie race. But those planning to vote at this point two months before the election report having voted for John McCain by 9 points in 2008, in contrast to Barack Obama’s actual narrow victory in the state.