Republican Sen. Richard Burr could be a sleeper figure in national politics during the next two years.
Burr's name never comes up in talk about the 2012 White House sweepstakes. But none of the Republican names being mentioned so far - former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty or former Georgia Gov. Newt Gingrich - is dominating the GOP field.
Though Burr has not talked about national ambitions, he seemed to catch a bit of the bug while on the 2008 presidential campaign trail for his friend Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Given the history of his Senate seat, there would be nothing strange about Burr's having national ambitions.
Two of three predecessors ran for president.
Burr succeeded Democrat John Edwards, who ran for president in 2004 and 2008. When he ran, Edwards had less experience in politics and government than Burr.
A previous holder of the Burr seat, Democrat Terry Sanford, ran for president in 1972 and 1976.
Only Republican Sen. Lauch Faircloth, who served a term between Sanford and Edwards, never ran for president.
Burr could be an attractive vice presidential running mate for the Republican presidential nominee because North Carolina is likely to be a key battleground state.
It was a major shock to the Republicans when Barack Obama carried North Carolina in 2008.
As Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said here last summer, North Carolina is a key part of any GOP plan to win back the White House in 2012.
President Obama once again signaled his intention to focus on North Carolina last week, when he chose Winston-Salem for a speech to talk about the need for more science and technology training.
That Burr has strength in the state is evident.
He became the first incumbent to retain the seat since Democrat Sam Ervin won re-election in 1968.
No other Senate seat in the country had turned over as frequently as the North Carolina seat.
Not only was Burr re-elected; he won 55 percent of the vote, easily defeating Democrat Elaine Marshall. It was the largest margin ever by a North Carolina Republican senator.
Burr is no spellbinder on the stump, and he has virtually no national profile. It is still not clear whether Burr can make the jump from Triple A ball to the big leagues.
But he is highly regarded in the business community, his conservative voting record is acceptable to the party's base, and he has an easygoing, non-polarizing style that goes over well with suburban swing voters.
So keep an eye on Burr.