PPP’s latest poll of the 2014 Senate race shows Hagan with a strong lead over all of her potential GOP challengers. Her approval numbers are still not spectacular – 42% approve of the job she’s doing, 39% disapprove.

Keep an eye on those approval numbers. As long as they stay positive, she should be considered a strong favorite for reelection. But if they stray into negative territory, then she will be vulnerable to a strong candidate. Hagan’s approval numbers, of course, will hinge almost entirely on the national political environment, and a negative ad campaign highlighting her unpopular votes could prove detrimental to her candidacy.

Right now though she’s in good shape. As a testament to her positive approval numbers, she breaks 50% against most of her challengers. Only Ellmers, McHenry, and Foxx hold her down to 49% of the vote.

Dan Forest is the frontrunner in this poll, even though I think it’s unlikely that he’ll run. He would be a strong candidate, but most politicos believe Forest’s ambition is the governorship. And Thom Tillis’s potential candidacy and Charlotte base would prove a hurdle for him.

Republican field
Undecided – 24%
Forest – 18%
Foxx – 13%
Berry – 12%
Ellmers – 10%
Berger – 8%
McHenry – 7%
Brannon – 4%
Tillis – 2%
Embler – 1%

General election
Hagan 49% McHenry 39%
Hagan 50% Forest 40%
Hagan 49% Foxx 37%
Hagan 50% Berry 38%
Hagan 49% Ellmers 36%
Hagan 50% Tillis 36%
Hagan 51% Berger 37%
Hagan 51% Brannon 36%
Hagan 52% Embler 33%

Favorable/Unfavorable (general election voters)
Berry 32/19 (+13)
Forest 25/20 (+5)
Hagan 42/39 (+3)
McHenry 17/19 (-2)
Foxx 21/26 (-5)
Ellmers 18/25 (-7)
Embler 8/16 (-8)
Brannon 9/18 (-9)
Tillis 15/24 (-9)
Berger 12/26 (-14)

Favorable/Unfavorable (among Republican primary voters)
Forest 36/18 (+18)
Berry 33/19 (+14)
Foxx 27/21 (+6)
McHenry 21/17 (+4)
Tillis 20/17 (+3)
Ellmers 21/21 (+0)
Berger 13/24 (-11)
Brannon 6/18 (-12)
Embler 4/18 (-14)

-The poll is good news for Kay Hagan. If the election was held today, she would win easily. Fortunately for the GOP, there are lots of Republican undecideds and unknown candidates, and they are sure to close the gap once the race really gets into high gear. It’s also good news for Dan Forest, who is the frontrunner on the Republican side and would be a formidable candidate if he decides to get in. Patrick McHenry also has to be feeling good about this poll; he, along with Forest, come closest to Hagan, though that’s probably due to name recognition.

-Hagan beats Terry Embler, who is not a serious candidate, by 19 points. She also defeats the first declared candidate, Greg Brannon, by 13 points. Again, this is probably a function of their low name recognition.

-It’s also good news for Cherie Berry, should she decide to enter the race (she probably won’t). Her +13 favorability rating among general election voters puts her a mile above the rest of the candidates, including Hagan.

-The unpopularity of the General Assembly is seen in the unfavorability ratings for their leaders, Tillis and Berger, who rank near the bottom. Berger’s is particularly bad at -14.

-The favorability/unfavorability among Republican primary voters column is probably the most important one. Here, we can get a feel for how Republicans think about their candidates, without non-candidates and other variables screwing up the numbers. Republicans like Forest most, which is why he’s leading overall. They also like Berry, Foxx, McHenry, and Tillis.

-In a way, this is good news for Tillis. He at least has a positive favorability with Republicans. He’ll need to burnish his conservative credentials in order to maintain these numbers. Despite his low poll numbers overall, Republicans are at least open to him as a candidate.

-Republicans can’t figure out whether they like Renee Ellmers or not, mirroring her odd position in real life: one day you have the conservative Club for Growth with her in their crosshairs, the next day she gets an award from the American Conservative Union.

-There’s almost nothing in this poll that’s good news for Berger. Despite his moves to the right and his efforts to attract Tea Party support, Republicans give him a -11 favorability. Berger sounds like a candidate, but he’ll be starting out in a tough position.

-Once again, PPP did not poll former Ambassador Jim Cain.

-These numbers, once again, represent preferences in the absence of any televised campaign. Once the real campaigning starts, these numbers will change dramatically.

-Overall, this is a bad poll for Republicans, and it should reinforce the fact that Kay Hagan will be tough to beat, and that to do so they’ll need a strong challenger and a favorable national environment.

John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: johncwynne@gmail.com.

GET UPDATES

Get the latest posts from PoliticsNC delivered right to your inbox!

You have Successfully Subscribed!