Stephen Dinan and Charles Hurt report that, not only are Bob Graham and John Edwards faring poorly in their bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, they are seriously in jeopardy of losing their Senate seats if they decide to run for re-election.

A Mason-Dixon poll last week showed Mr. Graham with his lowest approval rating in more than a decade, while in North Carolina, Rep. Richard Burr, a Republican running to unseat Mr. Edwards, has steadily closed the gap between himself and Mr. Edwards in Raleigh News-Observer polls during the last six months.

Mr. Edwards and Mr. Graham have time before public pressure or, in the case of Mr. Graham, state law, forces them to choose between their presidential or Senate bids. And with the election more than a year away, they have time to rebuild from what they say is a natural dip in the polls at home anytime a senator from a moderate state campaigns among the country’s more liberal Democratic primary voters.

But Republicans are tallying up the votes and public statements and awaiting their campaigns.
“[Bob Graham] has given so many 30-second ads we wouldn’t know what to do with them,” said Chris Paulitz, spokesman for Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican who is running for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat. He pointed to Mr. Graham’s support for a filibuster to block the confirmation of the first Hispanic federal appeals court judge and the senator’s opposition to the Medicare bill that passed the Senate.

And then there are Mr. Graham’s rhetorical attacks on President Bush, in which he questioned the president’s honesty and suggested he should be impeached for misleading the nation into war. “The people of Florida are starting to realize that the man running for president is not the same guy that was a two-term governor and a sitting senator that a broad cross-section of Floridians were voting for,” said Paul Seago, political director for Bill McCollum, another Republican seeking the seat.

Last week’s Mason-Dixon poll showed Mr. Graham with 53 percent job approval — down from 63 percent last year.

This is interesting and certainly the opposite of what one would expect: running for president means tons of free TV time on the national networks. Still, a 53% approval rating is hardly fatal and no comparative numbers are given for a likely GOP rival if one exists.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.