PPP Poll: NC's Senate GOP Primary Headed for Runoff

Tuesday, 08 Apr 2014 07:59 PM

By Joe Battaglia

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Latest polling numbers reveal that the Republican race for Senate in North Carolina is too close to call, and that the election in four weeks is likely destined for a runoff.

A recent opinion survey from Public Policy Polling revealed that state House Speaker Thom Tillis leads tea party candidate Greg Brannon by 18 percent to 15 percent. Mark Harris drew 11 percent of the vote, with five other candidates drawing single digits.

The poll also showed that 34 percent of voters remain undecided, meaning Tillis would have to win the majority of them to reach the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff in the May 6 primary.

Tillis' minute advantage comes despite his having far greater name recognition. According to PPP, 60 percent of those surveyed know enough about him to have formed an opinion, compared to 31 percent for Brannon and 30 percent for Harris, each of whom saw their overall poll numbers increase by 4 percentage points over the last month.

Should Tillis emerge victorious in the primary, he faces long odds in defeating Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. Although the GOP has hammered the first-term senator in television attack ads, she has amassed an $8.3 million campaign war chest, with $2.8 million raised in the first quarter of 2014, according to The Washington Post.

Tillis, who has the backing of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory as well as the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, has raised only $1.3 million in the first quarter of this year and has the same amount in the bank.

Despite the Koch brothers group Americans for Prosperity's spending an estimated $7 million on negative ads touting Hagan's outspoken support of the troubled Affordable Care Act, she leads Tillis by 45 percent to 43 percent in the polls.

Republicans are hoping to gain at least six seats in the midterm elections to take back control of the Senate. Hagan's seat is seen as vulnerable, as she has negative approval numbers -- 48 percent of those surveyed by PPP disapprove of the job she is doing -- and finds herself within the poll's margin of error against all of her potential Republican opponents.

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