PPP's newest North Carolina poll provides just the latest evidence of a Scott Walker surge among GOP voters. Walker leads the Republican field in the state with 24% to 17% for Jeb Bush, 15% for Mike Huckabee, and 12% for Ben Carson. PPP has now had three polls in a row- this one in North Carolina, one two weeks ago nationally, and one three weeks ago in South Carolina- where Walker, Bush, Huckabee, and Carson have all hit double digits while none of the rest of the GOP contenders have. For the time that quartet seems to be the top tier in the GOP race. Rounding out the field are Marco Rubio at 7%, Chris Christie and Rand Paul at 5%, and Ted Cruz and Rick Perry at 3%.
Everyone's standing is within a few points of where it was a month ago in our North Carolina poll with the exception of Walker whose support has increased by 10 points. Walker is doing well based on his appeal to 'very conservative' voters in the state. With them he's getting 32% to just 12% for Bush. Bush has an equally large lead with moderates- 28% to Walker's 8%- but there are twice as many voters who identify as 'very conservative' as moderate so it's not getting him very far.
Bush's problem continues to be that conservatives have become very suspicious of him since he announced in December that he would likely run for President. Before his announcement he had a 63/19 favorability with 'very conservative' voters in the state- now it's 39/35. Meanwhile as Walker becomes better known to Republicans in the state they're almost universally adopting positive opinions of him- last month he was at 47/11 with GOP voters in the state, now it's 56/12.
Chris Christie- already viewed tepidly by Republicans in North Carolina- is now outright disliked by them in the state. In December his favorability was 42/32, now it's 30/44 for a 24 point net decline in just over two months. Even moderates (25/42) don't care for him anymore. Ted Cruz (48/19), Rand Paul (49/22), Rick Perry (51/17), and Marco Rubio (also 51/17) are perfectly well liked by GOP voters in the state but they're just not catching fire in the way other new faces like Walker and Carson are. It's particularly noteworthy that among 'very conservative' voters, who would have to be the base of Cruz's support if he's going to get anywhere, he's in only 5th place at 7%.
The general election for President in North Carolina looks like it's setting up to be a toss up for a third straight time after being the second closest state in the country in both 2008 and 2012. Hillary Clinton is within 4 points of all nine Republicans we tested against her. The only one who actually leads Clinton is Ben Carson at 46/45. She is also tied with Mike Huckabee at 46%. Beyond that Clinton leads the other seven Republicans but in all cases it's pretty close. She has a 2 point advantage over Scott Walker at 45/43. She's up 3 on Chris Christie (45/42), Rand Paul (46/43), and Rick Perry (47/44). And her lead is 4 points over Jeb Bush (46/42), Marco Rubio (also 46/42), and Ted Cruz (47/43). It's early but it looks like North Carolina could be close once again.