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Sunday, January 29, 2023
HomeNewsElectionsAnalysis Of North Carolina Senate Race Finds A Tar-Heel ‘Toss-Up’

Analysis Of North Carolina Senate Race Finds A Tar-Heel ‘Toss-Up’

Democratic incumbent North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan seeing her chance of reelection shrink amid broken promises and failed rollout of ObamaCare.

The North Carolina Senate race is the eighth article in a succession of articles offering expanded analysis on the ratings for the PPD 2014 Senate Map. Vulnerable incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan is running in one of two states President Obama lost in 2012 after winning in 2008.

Thus far, I have released expanded analysis for the following Senate races:

AlaskaArkansasIowaKentuckyLouisianaMichiganMontana, and North Carolina, with West Virginia — which is rated “Safe Republican” on the 2014 Senate Map — soon to be released as the ninth article.

Hagan has benefited from weak opposition and also the fact she raised a great deal of money. Yet, to a significant degree, the ObamaCare rollout has erased any advantaged she may have had as the incumbent in the North Carolina Senate race, along with a ton of money. In fact, the North Carolina Senate race has already become the most expensive race in the country.

Between the shutdown and her war chest, Hagan had definitely strengthened her chances of being reelected. Even before ObamaCare, however, she still had major problems in the Tar Heel State. She supports gay marriage in a state where it was smoked on the ballot, despite liberal pollsters showing otherwise, and she supports gun control restrictions that are far too left for North Carolina.

But that was then, and this is now, when ObamaCare will be at the forefront of the debate in the North Carolina Senate race, as it will with all of the midterm elections.

Sen. Kay Hagan used to say, “If you’ve got health insurance in our country, you keep it.” Now, Sen. Hagan is trying to convince those who will vote in the North Carolina Senate race she is on the case. “We need to figure out why this happened,” she said in November. Unlike Landrieu in Louisiana, her comments are telling regarding her strategy, which is not to try and galvanize a small base to overtake an anti-ObamaCare sentiment.

It is far from unclear how effective that strategy will be, because once the Republican primary is over, her opponent will hammer her over how “this happened.” The vote for ObamaCare cast by Sen. Kay Hagan against the wishes of her constituencies is how “this happened.”

Still, it isn’t enough to be against someone or something, and candidate selection will have much to do with which side we decide to put our finger on the scale at PPD.

Thom Tillis, the Republican speaker of the state House, was seen as the top contender by the GOP establishment since the beginning of the cycle, and he is able to raise a good deal of money. Speakers of state legislatures, however, are establishment insiders, and Tillis has not yet proven to be a strong statewide candidate. An anti-establishment wave can very well sweep Tillis right out of the room.

Furthermore, no fewer than 4 other Republicans are declared in the North Carolina Senate race, including Bill Flynn, Heather Grant,  Southern Baptist leader the Reverend Mark Harris of Charlotte, and physician Greg Brannon. Amazingly, others are rumored to still be considering a bid, including state Senate leader Phil Berger, Reps. Renee Ellmers and Virginia Foxx, and former Ambassador Jim Cain of Raleigh.

Brannon announced the support of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), which obviously increases his clout among insurgent conservatives in the GOP primary, who will no doubt argue that Tillis is the face of the very controversial state legislature.

Prior to Jan., we only had polling conducted by the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling to examine, which most readers of PeoplesPunditDaily.com know full-well is not held in the highest regard here. All PPP polling is conducted using a registered voter model that does not take into account a likely midterm electorate. In the simplest of terms: the Obama electorate from 2008 and 2012 is also reflected in PPP, and Hagan will most assuredly not be able to count on that turnout machine.

In Jan., Rasmussen Reports released a survey that shows both Brannon and Tillis pulling away from Hagan, but Rasmussen does not have an extremely accurate track record post-2008, either. Currently, both polling firms are rated a 4 on the PPD accuracy of pollsters assessment, in which 1 represents quality accuracy on the margin and 4 is just the reverse.

Nevertheless, we can still identify clear trends over time, all of which, spell trouble for Sen. Kay Hagan. The ObamaCare rollout has badly damaged her approval, but in a not-so traditional manner. In September, she had a 43 percent approval rating, the same approval measured in December, but her disapproval shot up 10 points since then. Now, nearly half of the North Carolina Senate race electorate — which again, according to PPP is far more favorable than the actual electorate — disapprove of Sen. Kay Hagan.

For instance, when we combine “very liberal” and “somewhat liberal,” liberals account for 28 percent of the electorate in the PPP survey, in a state with a Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index) of R+3. In 2010, the Cook PVI for North Carolina was R+4, which ended in sweeping gains for the Republican Party. Though there is a slight change, R+3 still falls comfortably within the 83 percent chance of Republican victory identified in the PPD model.

To make matters worse, she will be hard-pressed to find any other piece of legislation — outside of ObamaCare — to attach her name to and talk about, prompting NoodlePundit.com to dub her “Queen Nothing” due to her lack of accomplishments in the U.S. Senate. Of course, a strong candidate on the Republican side will be necessary if that message is to be effectively transmitted to the voters.

Recent PPP polling shows Paul-backed Brannon to be the strongest candidate against Hagan, but the incumbent is polling with no more than 45 percent support. Further, the latest Rasmussen Reports survey shows Tillis pulling farther and farther ahead of Hagan, leading the senator 47 – 40 percent. Brannon is leading Hagan in the Rasmussen survey, as well, but by a smaller margin.

Perhaps, the most encouraging sign for Republicans is that only 39 percent of voters in the Tar Heel State now say they approve of the job Hagan is doing, while to 49 percent say they disapprove.

Nevertheless, as far as the GOP field, it is still far too early to set the primary in stone. However, Thom Tillis appears to be benefiting from his ad campaign, leading the GOP field in the latest PPP survey with 19 percent, to 11 percent for Brannon.

Heather Grant is around 8 percent, as well is Mark Harris, and 7 percent support Bill Flynn. Tillis has gained 6 points from his 13 percent support in December, while Harris has declined by 4 points from the 12 percent in the same month.

No matter who becomes the Republican nominee, they will have to contend with negative sentiment surrounding a Republican governor, who is polling in the 30s on approval, and a controversial state legislature.

It’s very unlikely Republicans can capture a Senate majority if they don’t win here. One noteworthy pundit has moved this race back to “Leans Democrat,” but I have seen no justification for that call since September, and at this moment, the North Carolina Senate race is a “Toss-Up” on the PPD 2014 Senate Map.

View Polling Below Or Return To PPD 2014 Senate Map

Poll Date Sample Tillis (R) Hagan (D) Spread
Rasmussen Reports 1/9 – 1/12 500 LV 47 40 Tillis +7
PPP (D) 1/9 – 1/12 1384 RV 43 42 Tillis +1
PPP (D) 12/5 – 12/8 1281 RV 42 44 Hagan +2
PPP (D) 11/8 – 11/11 701 RV 42 44 Hagan +2
PPP (D) 9/6 – 9/9 600 RV 36 51 Hagan +15
Poll Date Sample Harris (R) Hagan (D) Spread
PPP (D) 1/9 – 1/12 1384 RV 43 41 Harris +2
PPP (D) 12/5 – 12/8 1281 RV 43 43 Tie
PPP (D) 11/8 – 11/11 701 RV 41 43 Hagan +2
PPP (D) 9/6 – 9/9 600 RV 36 50 Hagan +14
Poll Date Sample Brannon (R) Hagan (D) Spread
Rasmussen Reports 1/22 – 1/23 500 LV 43 39 Brannon +4
PPP (D) 1/9 – 1/12 1384 RV 43 41 Brannon +2
PPP (D) 12/5 – 12/8 1281 RV 45 43 Brannon +2
PPP (D) 11/8 – 11/11 701 RV 44 43 Brannon +1
Poll Date Sample Grant (R) Hagan (D) Spread
PPP (D) 1/9 – 1/12 1384 RV 42 41 Grant +1
PPP (D) 12/5 – 12/8 1281 RV 43 43 Tie
PPP (D) 11/8 – 11/11 701 RV 40 43 Hagan +3
PPP (D) 9/6 – 9/9 600 RV 36 48 Hagan +12
Poll Date Sample Flynn (R) Hagan (D) Spread
PPP (D) 1/9 – 1/12 1384 RV 44 42 Flynn +2
PPP (D) 12/5 – 12/8 1281 RV 45 43 Flynn +2


Written by
Data Journalism Editor

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

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