NC SEN: Tillis Faces Obstacles In New Poll

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Sep 18, 2014 6:45 PM
NC SEN: Tillis Faces Obstacles In New Poll

Faced with attacks from the Koch brothers and the Chamber of Commerce, Sen. Kay Hagan is obviously asking for money. “Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, and everyone on the other side knows what we know -- this race is a toss-up,” read one of her fundraising emails. “They’re investing $23 million to tip the scales in their favor. After all, that’s how the Kochs usually get what they want -- they buy it. That’s not going to work here. To get this seat, the Kochs will have to go through us.”

Yet, she’s be given a significant buffer by a group connected to Sen. Harry Reid that is circling the wagons around Senate Democrats as polls continue to bestow good fortune on GOP hopes of retaking the Senate come November. Oh, and this group had to step in because the state-based super PACs aimed at protecting folks like Sens. Landrieu, Pryor, and Hagan were never able to get the “big checks” (via WaPo):

If Democrats cling to their Senate majority this fall, it will be in large part because of a well-funded group connected to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid that has helped build a formidable firewall around vulnerable incumbents.

The Senate Majority PAC, fueled by billionaires and labor unions, has been the biggest-spending super PAC of the 2014 midterm contests. Together with an allied tax-exempt group, Patriot Majority, the pro-Democratic effort has poured at least $36 million into ads and voter outreach, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization.

In North Carolina, the Senate Majority PAC and Patriot Majority have spent millions defending Sen. Kay Hagan, who is locked in a tight race with Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis. In Michigan, the groups have helped erode the standing of GOP candidate Terri Lynn Land, with ads that accuse her of answering to billionaires backing her campaign, “not to us.” In Alaska, the Senate Majority PAC has provided most of the funding for Put Alaska First, a super PAC backing Sen. Mark Begich that has spent more than $5 million.

The expansive presence of the Reid-linked groups has come at the expense of smaller, state-based efforts to protect Senate Democrats. A series of individual super PACs set up to support Hagan, Pryor and Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) withered when big checks did not materialize, said people involved in the projects.

The one thing that Sen. Hagan is right about is that the race will be a close one. On average, Real Clear Politics has Hagan with a four-point lead. Yet, if you look at polling conducted since January, you’ll see that Hagan has led Tillis in most polls.


This image courtesy of RCP

Tillis has fired off fundraising emails of his own citing the Senate Majority PAC as the reason why Hagan might win re-election if his supporters don’t donate.

Yet, Tillis has other issues to address besides keeping his war chest at healthy levels. The Civitas Institute, a North Carolina-based conservative think tank, conducted a poll with unaffiliated voters, which make up 27 percent of the electorate on who they would vote for in the 2014 Senate race. It did not deliver good results for Tillis, but there’s room to maneuver.

While both candidates have approval ratings that are underwater, Tillis is viewed considerably more unfavorably. Seventeen percent view him favorably, 43 percent unfavorably, 24 percent have no opinion, and 16 percent haven’t heard of him. Meanwhile, Sen. Kay Hagan favorable and unfavorable numbers split evenly at 43 percent, with 12 percent having no opinion either way.

President Obama’s favorability rating in the Tar Heel State rests at 48 percent, with 46 percent disapproving. As I’ve mentioned before, this means that the Hagan=Obama attacks are limited.

If the election were held today, Hagan would win 39 percent of the vote, followed by Tillis’ 27 percent, and Sean Haugh, the libertarian, with 8 percent. Yet, 12 percent were still undecided.

If the contest were just Tillis and Hagan, Hagan would win again with 41 percent to Tillis’ 33 percent.

With 12 percent of unaffiliated voters undecided and 24 percent having no opinion of Mr. Tillis, there’s definitely room to grow as we enter the fall campaign. But Tillis may have to tweak his messaging a bit.

Tillis has aggressively tried to tie Sen. Kay Hagan to Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Hagan has tried to tie Tillis, who’s the Speaker for the North Carolina House of Representatives, to the “sins of Raleigh” in the state legislature, especially the $500 million in cuts to education; a talking point that’s a half-truth.

The Civitas poll also shows that national and state issues, including education, split–29/28–evenly when it comes to motivating North Carolina voters to show up at the polls. Thirty-nine percent said both sets of issues equally motivate them to vote.

As for the direction of North Carolina, 68 percent said the state was on the wrong track, while 19 percent said it was heading in the right direction. This is a point of attack for Tillis, right? Well, not really.

Of those who said the state was on the right track, when asked what issue the state was handling well; 16 percent said teacher pay, while 13 percent said it was education.

For those who said the state was on the wrong track, the one issue they felt the state was getting wrong was education at 35 percent, while 18 percent said teacher’s pay and 13 percent citing health care.

If some of you were wondering why Hagan was so aggressive in going after Tillis over education, there’s your answer.

In these races, it comes down to turnout, which is a department that Democrats will have trouble in as Election Day draws nearer. But also which stinks more Raleigh or Washington D.C.?

Right now, it seems like the stench of what’s going on in Raleigh is overpowering what Washington D.C. is dishing out.

So, was Hagan’s handshake with Obama the kiss of death? It doesn’t seem to be the case.