Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Hanabusa Concedes in Hawaii; Tight NC Senate Race

In Senate on August 21, 2014 at 10:27 am

Hawaii

In Hawaii, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) announced yesterday that she will concede the contested Senate Democratic primary. The final unofficial count gives appointed Sen. Brian Schatz a 1,769-vote advantage, which is likely too large for any challenge to overturn.

Though Hanabusa may have grounds for contesting the results – ballots not counted together, extending the election for only certain people, etc. – she has decided not to pursue what are probably long-shot legal options. But, challenging Schatz again may not be out of the question. Because 2014 voters will only choose a senator to fill the last two years of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye’s (D) final term in office, Schatz, now the prohibitive favorite to win in November, will again be on the ballot in 2016.

North Carolina

Monthly, Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling surveys the tight US Senate race featuring incumbent Kay Hagan (D) as she attempts to win a second six-year term. The August PPP poll (Aug. 14-17; 856 likely North Carolina voters) gives the senator a 42-38 percent lead over Republican nominee Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives. Libertarian Party candidate Sean Haugh receives eight percent support.

A new Suffolk University survey (Aug. 16-19; 500 registered North Carolina voters) found an even closer margin. According to this data, the senator leads Tillis 45-43 percent with five percent going to Haugh.

The combined results are actually an improvement for Tillis when compared with polls taken during the contentious second session of the legislature. During that time frame, the Speaker trailed between five and seven points. And, while Tillis continues to lag behind where an average Republican nominee would normally reside at this point in the election cycle, Hagan averages an anemic 41.3 percent from an aggregate of 25 polls conducted since December of last year. Such a standing normally leads to an incumbent defeat. Therefore, the North Carolina Senate campaign has evolved into two weak candidates battling each other in a race that somebody has to defy odds to win.

The presence of Libertarian Haugh is another signal that the two major party candidates are not well received. Because it is improbable Haugh comes close to double digits when votes are actually cast, PPP asked those current poll respondents who they would choose if only Hagan and Tillis were the options. When the secondary results are added to the primary responses, Hagan’s lead diminishes even further to just 43-42 percent. So, in order to help overcome his deficit, the Tillis forces must find a way to make their candidate acceptable to those who first would choose to vote third party.

Finally, the last major factor cutting against the senator is North Carolina’s consistent history of defeating Senate incumbents. Aside from Republican Jesse Helms, who won five consecutive times over a 30-year period, the only senator successfully re-elected here since Sam Ervin (D) won a fourth term in 1968 is current incumbent Richard Burr (R). Therefore, the state’s voting history may actually be a bigger anchor around Hagan’s neck than her poor polling standing

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