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A reader chided me for not writing lately about the NC Senate and Governor’s races. My excuse was that all the oxygen is taken up with “Trump said what today?” Then the Marist/Wall Street Journal poll last week showed Clinton, Ross and Cooper all leading. So here we go.

The stunner was Clinton leading Trump in North Carolina 48-39. If that comes to pass, or anything close, Clinton is winning a landslide nationally. She was also up 46-33 in Virginia.

Clinton’s lead explains why Deborah Ross is slightly ahead in the Senate race, 46-44. No TV ads have run in that race, and nobody knows Ross yet. Nor do they know much about Senator Burr, either.

Burr’s challenge may be to get some Clinton voters to vote for him. He’ll argue that, “no matter who is President (translation: I know it will be Clinton), you need me because it’s a dangerous world, I chair the Senate Intelligence Committee and I’ll keep you safe.” Ross has to counter that. She’ll also have to counter attacks on her work with the ACLU.

Burr is a stealth candidate. He’s low-key, has a relatively moderate image (though he votes hard-right) and doesn’t have the mean edge of a Trump, Thom Tillis or Jesse Helms. He’s always had good timing in his campaigns, so this may be the first year he swims upstream.

But he has a solid team around him, and his ads are always good.

A newcomer like Ross can be a nightmare for a long-time incumbent like Burr, but she has to build a team from scratch, prove herself as a candidate and run great ads. (The campaign doesn’t start until the TV ads start.) Ross also needs a strong boost from Clinton.

Cooper’s 51-44 lead shouldn’t be surprising. McCrory has been cratering for months now, since HB2 passed. That’s all a lot of voters know about him, and they know HB2 is hurting the economy. It also contradicts the “Carolina Comeback.”

TV ads have started in this race, and Cooper has the best of it so far. The Republican ads attacking Cooper are typical negative ads, and voters have seen that movie before. Cooper’s “Raise Your Hand” ad is a better negative, i.e., a negative ad that doesn’t sound or feel like one.

McCrory has a good positive ad talking into the camera, sitting soft-focus by himself in the Mansion. Cooper countered that with a positive spot featuring his wife and three daughters.

Cooper’s campaign showed an ability to counterpunch and do so quickly. When McCrory attacked him on the crime lab, Cooper shot back the next day with a tough response ad. That one looked like it was already in the can.

An incumbent who trails a challenger at this point in the campaign is in real trouble, and that’s McCrory.

Best way to sum it up: Democrats would like to vote today.

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