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For the first time in PPP’s polling, Hagan does not lead one of her potential Republican challengers in the 2014 race. PPP’s latest shows Hagan tied, 45-45, with Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry. Hagan leads all of her other Republican rivals by 4 to 11 points. Oddly, Hagan’s approval rating is the best it has been in some time: 46/40. Hagan’s name recognition has also increased dramatically. Last month, 24% were unsure on how they felt about Kay Hagan, now only 14% are that way.

Republican field
(Numbers in parentheses indicate change in % support over last month)
Undecided – 28% (-4)
Foxx – 15% (+2)
Berry – 14% (-4)
Berger – 10% (-1)
Ellmers – 10% (-2)
Brannon – 7% (+1)
Tillis – 6% (-1)
Cain – 4% (N/A)
Harris – 3% (N/A)
Wheeler – 3% (N/A)

Not much to see here. Foxx has increased her support at Berry's expense, they are first and second place in the primary field, respectively. Tillis is at 6% before the campaign begins in earnest. The bottom three candidates – Cain, Harris, and Wheeler – have only mentioned their interest in the race over the past month and were not included in the last poll.

General election
Berry 45%, Hagan 45% (+5)
Hagan 46%, Berger 42% (+5)
Hagan 46%, Harris 40% (N/A)
Hagan 48%, Cain 41% (N/A)
Hagan 48%, Tillis 41% (+3)
Hagan 49%, Foxx 42% (+2)
Hagan 48%, Ellmers 39% (-1)
Hagan 49%, Brannon 40% (+4)
Hagan 48%, Wheeler 37% (N/A)

Performing much better than last month against Kay Hagan are Cherie Berry and Phil Berger, who narrowed the gap by five points each. Every other candidate has improved in their respective matchup except for Renee Ellmers, who is doing 1 point worse against Hagan than last month.

Favorable/Unfavorable (general election voters)
Berry 29/20 (+9)
Hagan 46/40 (+6)
Ellmers 18/23 (-5)
Foxx 23/29 (-6)
Wheeler 10/18 (-8)
Brannon 8/17 (-9)
Cain 9/19 (-10)
Harris 8/18 (-10)
Tillis 15/25 (-10)
Berger 11/27 (-16)

Berry and Hagan are the only candidates with a positive favorability rating. Note also the tendency of poll respondents to feign knowledge of unknown candidates – there’s no way that people like Lynn Wheeler and Mark Harris are that well known to the public. Note also that voters give them negative ratings even though they don’t know anything about them. Politicians are in such poor esteem nowadays that voters automatically hold a negative opinion of them.

Favorable/Unfavorable (Republican primary voters)
Foxx 34/19 (+15)
Berry 31/21 (+10)
Ellmers 23/15 (+8)
Tillis 21/18 (+3)
Harris 9/12 (-3)
Cain 8/14 (-6)
Wheeler 8/16 (-8)
Berger 13/22 (-9)
Brannon 6/16 (-10)

The most important result is the one above. Many of these candidates will probably not enter the race at all, and their voters will go to someone else.

-It’s not hard to see why Foxx is leading the Republican primary. She has very strong numbers with Republicans, especially in her base area of the Triad.

-Ellmers also posts a +8 favorability rating. A lot of Tea Party Republicans are down on Ellmers but rank and file Republicans seem to like her just fine. A concerted attack by the Club for Growth could probably affect those numbers, however.

-Tillis also sports a positive favorability rating, but just barely. This isn’t great news for Team Tillis, but it’s not bad news either as long as it doesn’t fall into the negatives. Once voters in your own party stop liking you, it’s very hard to get them back on your side.

-Jim Cain and Greg Brannon are the most unknown candidates, with 78% unable to form an opinion on them.

-The tendency of voters to reflexively ascribe negative views to candidates also extends to the Republican primary electorate. Harris, Cain, and Wheeler all have negative favorability numbers. This isn’t something to worry about. These respondents literally have no idea what they’re talking about and can be easily persuaded to view them in a better light (assuming that they all run serious campaigns).

-Berger’s numbers continue to be poor even with Republicans. Despite having a reputation for being the more conservative of the two Senate leaders, he’s having a hard time getting Republican voters to like him. Could it be the beard?

-The standard caveats apply: the race hasn’t even started yet, a lot of these names floating about won’t be in the race at all, the election will hinge on the national environment, polls are a snapshot in time, and most of this is name recognition at this point. Things will start to get more interesting – and changes in polling numbers more meaningful – after this summer, when the campaign begins in earnest.

-By the way, Terry Embler dropped out a couple of weeks ago. This leaves Greg Brannon as the frontrunner by default.

-Coming up next: a post about the Republican primary, the Hagan campaign, and PPP … and why state Republicans should be wary.

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.

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