The FiveThirtyEight blog ranks Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr's seat as the 11th most likely to change parties in next year's Senate elections.
The blog, which analyzes polling data, reports that Republicans are now more likely to gain seats than lose seats in next year's elections. Burr's seat ranks 11 of 15 on the blog's August ranking in likelihood that it would change party. That's an improvement for Burr, whose seat was listed by the blog as seventh most likely to change parties in May.
Citing analysis by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver says that Burr's low-name recognition and low approval numbers suggest that his chances will depend on whether the election is an anti-incumbent year.
That may be especially true since the Democrats are still scrambling to find a credible challenger to Burr. Rob Christensen reports that Democrats are "going through an awkward dance to find a candidate to go toe-to-toe with Burr in 2010."
"There is a vacuum," said Gary Pearce, a veteran Democratic strategist in Raleigh. "Nobody has really stepped in to fill it, nobody with the name or the money or the backing to put an end to all of this."
So the list of potential Democratic candidates continues to grow. There are little-known figures such as former state Sen. Cal Cunningham of Lexington, Durham lawyer Kenneth Lewis and Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy who seem eager to jump into the race.
And there are potential candidates who are better known, but seem less sure. They include U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge of Lillington, former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker of Sanford, and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall of Lillington.