George Will

Burr says Bowles' name identification among North Carolinians is higher than Edwards', and professes himself ``tickled to death'' by an independent North Carolina poll that shows Edwards beating him 49-35. He reasons that he can do a lot about the 35 percent, because his name is still unknown to two-thirds of North Carolinians, but Edwards should worry about being below 50 percent against a largely unknown opponent. The same poll showed Edwards' ``hard re-elect'' number--the percentage of those polled who say they would vote to re-elect--at 37 percent.

Recently in Burr's hometown of Winston-Salem--home of Wake Forest University, where he played football--he raked in $700,000 at a fund-raising event attended by Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political strategist. The official line is that this early imprimatur from the White House was bestowed only after Burr demonstrated sufficient support from the state party's leaders. But such support was encouraged by the knowledge that this White House, which is active in trying to influence candidate selections, was watching closely.

Burr thinks Dole's victory proves that North Carolina's conservative bent is still strong, even after an influx of new residents that has seen the state--now the 11th-largest, just behind Georgia--grow 37 percent between 1980 and 2000. He also believes he will be helped by the public's focus on national security, given the large military presence in the state, including Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base at Goldsboro.

North Carolinians, says Burr, are put off by Edwards' presidential aspirations because they want ``stable figures for a long time,'' such as Sens. Sam Ervin, who served for 20 years until 1974, and Jesse Helms, who served 30 years until 2003. And citing the lukewarm reaction when Terry Sanford sought the 1972 and 1976 Democratic presidential nominations, Burr says North Carolinians care little about local presidential candidates.

If Sen. Fritz Hollings, the 81-year-old South Carolina Democrat, decides not to seek a seventh term next year, Republicans can plausibly hope for a two-seat pickup in the Carolinas. But this large step toward retaining control of the Senate will probably not include a North Carolina blowout.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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