For the first time in our polling of the North Carolina Senate race, presumptive frontrunner Thom Tillis has opened a little bit of space between himself and the rest of his opponents in the Republican primary. Tillis now leads the field with 19% to 11% for Greg Brannon and Heather Grant, 8% for Mark Harris, and 7% for Bill Flynn. Tillis has gained 6 points from his 13% standing a month ago, while Harris has declined by 4 points from the 12% he had previously. Everyone else has more or less stayed in place.
The name recognition Tillis gained by being the first candidate to run tv ads probably helped drive his increased support this month. 46% of Republican primary voters are familiar with Tillis, compared to less than 30% for everyone else in the field. Tillis is now leading in every region of the state except the Triad, where Flynn is well known from a long radio career. Perhaps more importantly for Tillis he has the lead with both conservative and moderate voters at this point.
Despite Tillis' increased support this primary would still be headed to a runoff if the election was today. If the undecided voters broke proportionately to their current candidate preferences it would only be enough to get Tillis to 34%, well short of the 40% needed in North Carolina to win the primary outright.
The general election picture has entered into a holding pattern over the last three months, with Kay Hagan trailing her potential Republican opponents by small margins as she continues to suffer from poor approval ratings.
Hagan's main issue is that with independents she has a 30/56 approval rating and trails all of her opponents by double digits. Unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act seems to be driving much of her trouble. Only 38% of voters in the state overall support it to 48% who are opposed, and independents are more against it than the overall electorate at 31/57. 61% of voters think its implementation has been unsuccessful to 32% who deem it a success. Those numbers have actually been slowly moving in a positive direction for Democrats though. The percentage of voters rating it unsuccessful has declined from 69% in November to 65% in December to the new 61% mark.
This race continues to look like a toss up, but Hagan could definitely use a change of topic from Obamacare to help get her numbers out of this rut.
Full results here