The failed rollout of Obamacare has significantly damaged Hagan’s reelection prospects. Back in September, Hagan was leading all Republican challengers by double-digits. Now, she’s in a statistical tie with all of them. If Obamacare continues to be a disaster, expect most pundits to switch the NC Senate race from ‘Leans Democratic’ to ‘Toss-Up’.
General election (numbers in parentheses indicates change in margin from last poll)
Hagan 43%; Brannon 44% (+7)
Hagan 44%; Tillis 42% (+5)
Hagan 43%; Harris 41% (+6)
Hagan 43%; Grant 40% (+9)
All Republicans have made dramatic gains against Hagan since the last poll. Brannon actually leads Hagan by 1 point. Heather Grant does worst against the incumbent, but is only down by 3 points. In none of the matchups does Hagan crack 44%. This is a very dangerous place to be for a sitting senator.
Undecided – 47%
Tillis – 20%
Harris – 14%
Brannon – 11%
Grant – 8%
This race hasn’t even begun yet. Almost a majority of Republican primary voters are undecided. Keep an eye on the Harris/Brannon/Grant vote. This is the Tea Party vote, and right now it’s split. If this segment of the electorate unites in favor of one candidate, then that’s to Tillis’s detriment. Right now, they’re not united.
Tillis’s path to the nomination is this: raise gobs of money. Dominate the airwaves and the media, win moderate or somewhat conservative Republicans comfortably, and do decently with ‘very conservative’ voters. Being able to present himself as the most electable candidate would be another feather in his cap.
Favorable/Unfavorable (general election voters)
Here, numbers in parentheses represent net favorability
Hagan 44/49 (-5)
Harris 11/19 (-8)
Grant 9/19 (-10)
Tillis 16/28 (-12)
Brannon 9/22 (-13)
Hagan’s approval rating is fairly poor. Interestingly, 93% of voters have an opinion on her. This is actually an impressive number. But it’s not always a good thing. Perhaps the ad war is helping to boost Hagan’s name recognition?
Of the Republicans, Mark Harris has the highest favorability. Brannon has the worst. I’ve commented before on how voters will automatically perceive unknown politicians unfavorably, but I’ve heard elsewhere that this is just something peculiar to PPP. Regardless, none of the candidates running are popular with NC voters. Of the Republicans, Tillis is best known, but only 44% have an opinion one way or the other.
Favorable/Unfavorable (primary election voters)
Numbers in parentheses here represent net favorability
Tillis 21/22 (-1)
Harris 10/21 (-11)
Brannon 8/21 (-13)
Grant 5/20 (-15)
Now, this is interesting. None of the Republican candidates are particularly liked by their own voters. But, Tillis has by far the best favorability in his own party. This is contrary to the conventional “idiot blogger” wisdom, which is that Tillis is toxic among the GOP base. Now, is it possible that Tillis could be “Tea Partied”? Of course. But at this point, he’s in good shape. And that won’t change unless there’s a concerted media effort to paint him as unacceptably moderate.
So, what to make of this poll? First, Hagan is in perilous shape for reelection. That doesn’t mean she’s guaranteed to lose, but it’s looking more likely that she’ll face a competitive race than it did even a month ago. Hagan is always going to be at the mercy of the national environment, and right now the nation is down on Democrats because of Obamacare. If, a year from now, Democrats are still getting pummeled for supporting Obamacare, then Hagan will probably lose. The poll is good news for both Tillis and Brannon. Brannon because he’s the only GOPer who leads Hagan. Tillis because he’s the favorite in the primary and actually has the best favorability ratings with his own party.
It was starting to look like the North Carolina Senate race might be a non-competitive affair. This poll changes that notion. That’s good news for avid followers of state politics. Fashion your seatbelts, 2014 is going to be a bumpy ride.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.