Could N. Carolina end up with 2 Democratic U.S. senators?

RALEIGH — Republican Sen. Richard Burr says he has little doubt that this is the calm before the storm and that next year North Carolina once again will be the focus of a national battle for control of the U.S Senate.

"With the bull's-eye that organizations have put on North Carolina Republicans' backs, there is going to be more money spent in North Carolina than anybody can ever fathom in the next election cycle," he says.

Two statewide polls show Burr's approval rating in the mid-30 percent range, regarded as a dangerously low number for an incumbent.

That's why Democrats, fresh off defeating Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole last November, are now looking to bump off Burr in November 2010 and gain a filibuster-proof Senate for President Barack Obama.

Burr spent last week's Easter recess traveling across North Carolina, trying to raise his visibility.

On Wednesday, he slipped into a North Raleigh Rotary Club meeting with little fanfare and no entourage, and he gave a lunchtime speech with virtually no applause lines.

Instead, Burr delivered plenty of earnest policy-wonk talk about the "architecture of the financial institutions," "infrastructure partnerships" and "a national insurance product."

Although Burr, a Winston- Salem resident, was well-received at the civic club, there is still a "Richard Who?" factor despite his more than four years in the Senate.

"I'm perplexed. I don't know that much about him," Bill Bigger, a self-described independent in Raleigh, said after listening to Burr. "If you get around Winston-Salem, you know a lot about him, but if you live around here, you don't know him."

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