A poll out this morning reflects the reality of North Carolina politics. The ABC/Washington Post poll shows a presidential race neck-and-neck and a U.S. Senate race in a similar position. According the polls, Biden leads Trump by one, 49-48 among likely voters and 48-46 among registered voters. In the US Senate race, Cunningham leads Tillis 49-47 among likely voters and 49-46 among registered voters.

That’s the North Carolina we all know. While Democrats clearly have an edge, the races here are tight. While Cunningham has enjoyed a lead between five and ten points for much of the year, it was probably never going to hold. As a friend said recently, a landslide in North Carolina is three points. Cunningham probably hurt himself a bit with his affair, but Republicans who don’t like Tillis are finally holding their noses and heading to the polls to vote for him. In other words, Republicans are coming home to the party in both races. 

The poll does show that overall sentiment is more with Democrats and the higher turnout benefits them. In both races, the Democrats’ leads increase with registered voters over likely voters. In the presidential race, when leaners were pushed, they went more to Biden. These realities underscore the fight over absentee ballots. Democrats want to make sure they all are counted and Republicans want to throw out as many as they can. 

The poll also shows that Cunningham’s affair is having little impact on the electorate. Only 26 percent of voters say that it’s important in their decision. The most significant deciding point is control of the Senate. Eighty-one percent of the people polled say that’s an important factor in determining their vote. Fifty-six percent say Tillis’ support of Trump is important but that cuts both ways. 

On the most pressing issues of the election, voters overall prefer Trump to handle the economy by a six point margin and prefer Biden to handle the coronavirus by an eight point margin. However, women prefer Biden on the economy by seven points. Right now, the virus seems to be the driving factor in the race as cases are spiking across  the country. A majority of voters disapprove of the way Trump is handling the virus by an eight point margin, 53-45. If we’re talking about the increasing cases more than the sputtering economy, Biden has the advantage.

With two weeks to go, in North Carolina, the races are going down to the wire. The most important factor at this point is turnout. All the ads in the world won’t significantly change the trajectory of the election. There are very few undecided voters at this point, though the few out there favor Democrats, probably because they are the party out of power. The high turnout also favors Democrats with a record number of early votes pouring into the polls. Still, both Cunningham and Biden hold leads within the margin of error, so nothing is done in North Carolina yet.

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