Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

NC Senate Race Suddenly Tightens; A VA AG 164-Vote Winner

In Senate, States on November 14, 2013 at 10:51 am

A new North Carolina Public Policy Polling survey (Nov. 8-11; 701 registered North Carolina voters) shows that, despite still being viewed as generally weak and for months viewed as a 2014 Republican candidate recruiting disappointment, the current challengers are pulling into a virtual tie with first-term Sen. Kay Hagan (D).

According to the results, Sen. Hagan actually trails physician Greg Brannon, heavily backed by Tea Party supporters, 43-44 percent. She leads state House Speaker Thom Tillis, the national Republican political committees’ favored candidate, by only 42-40 percent, and scores just a 43-41 percent edge over senior Baptist minister Mark Harris. Against virtually unknown nurse and Army veteran Heather Grant, the senator’s advantage is a mere 43-40 percent.

The new data provides evidence that Sen. Hagan’s political position weakening. In PPP’s October 4-6 poll (746 registered North Carolina voters), the incumbent held a 47-40 percent lead over Speaker Tillis, and similar spreads over Brannon (46-40 percent) and Harris (46-38 percent). Comparing the polls yields a net 5-7 point Republican gain in all configurations against Hagan.

Additionally, in another point that suggests North Carolina Republicans are on the upswing, the generic ballot is now 45 percent Democratic versus 43 percent Republican. In July, answering the same question: “Would you vote for a Democrat or Republican for the state legislature?”, Democrats commanded a 51-42 percent advantage.

Despite Sen. Hagan’s perennial status as a prime Republican 2014 target, neither a statewide nor federal office holder came forward to challenge her. Speaker Tillis is certainly the most experienced candidate in the field, and has Republican establishment support in North Carolina and ostensibly from Washington, but his victory in a crowded nomination field is by no means assured. This poll, however, suggests that the other GOP candidates are on virtual equal footing with Tillis, and that Sen. Hagan can expect viable opposition regardless of who wins the party nomination.

The Tar Heel State Senate race is a long way from being cast in a serious prediction mode, but polling has always detected that Republicans have a chance to unseat Sen. Hagan because even her best polling fails to reveal underlying strength. Republicans are undoubtedly buoyed by these new numbers, but party perspective notwithstanding, this race is pegged to be a year-long campaign that will likely end in a photo finish.

Virginia Attorney General

It appears the final ballots have now been counted in the virtually tied Virginia Attorney General’s race and the pertinent state election officials confirm they will be issuing a certified canvass result on or before Nov. 25. Democrat Mark Herring declared victory yesterday, as the final count gives him a 164-vote lead statewide (1,103,777 to 1,103,613) over fellow state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R).

Once the state completes the certification process, a full recount will undoubtedly ensue, and this will likely feature an individual vote challenge process before a state judge to determine which tallies will be admitted or eliminated. It is always better to enter a recount leading rather than trailing, but such a small margin separating the two candidates in a large voting universe certainly means the lead changing yet again is a distinct possibility.

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