Republicans wanted Elaine Marshall as the Democratic opponent to Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), believing her to be far Left enough to do what no North Carolina Senator in this particular seat has done in over 40 years — win re-election.  An initial Survey USA poll shows that the GOP may have had it right.  Burr leads Marshall by ten points among likely voters:

In an election for United States Senator from North Carolina today, 06/25/10, incumbent Republican Richard Burr holds his seat for the GOP, narrowly edging Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall 50% to 40%. Republicans are aligned behind Burr more solidly than Democrats are aligned behind Marshall. Independents break for Burr. Burr carries greater Charlotte and Greensboro. Marshall and Burr are effectively even in greater Raleigh and Southern NC.

The 50% threshold is important, especially in a three-way race.  Libertarian Mike Beitler draws only 6% now, and as Election Day approaches, some of those will probably move to the other two candidates.  Beitler gets most of his support from men (8% of men, versus 3% of women), which Burr wins overall by 21 points (55/34) and only gets edged among women by 3 (44/47), so presumably Burr will gain most of whatever Beitler loses.

Interestingly, Burr wins every age demographic and performs more strongly among younger voters from 18-34 years of age, almost doubling up Marshall, 57/29.  He also beats Marshall among independents, 46/35, with Beitler getting 12%.  Not surprisingly, he wins the pro-life vote 70/21, but  also has some support  in the pro-choice demo, 31/59.

Burr has other winds at his back.  In the larger sample of adults, 63% of respondents named the economy as their top issue for the midterms.  Health care came in second at only 9%, a rather emphatic rejection of the project that took almost the entirety of Democratic attention in the 111th Congress.  Only 29% of North Carolina’s adults believe that the economy will be better a year from now, with 30% saying it will be weaker and 36% predicting no change.  Sixty-one percent disapprove of the federal response to the Gulf spill, which won’t help Democrats get Elaine Marshall elected, either.  And despite the spill, 49% want offshore drilling for North Carolina.

Burr may have a tough fight, but he looks positioned to beat history and become the first Senator from his state to win a second term since Jesse Helms, and a re-election in this seat since Sam Ervin.