Will North Carolina Become The GOP’s Unicorn For 2014?

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Sep 23, 2014 8:15 PM
Will North Carolina Become The GOP’s Unicorn For 2014?

I hate being doom and gloom; it’s not my nature. But every time an avenue of attack presents itself that could help Republican Thom Tillis, there’s something to cancel out that possible advantage.

Tillis is leading with men, but Sen. Kay Hagan has a 44/33 lead with women; Tillis also has a 40+-point deficit with single women.

In their latest poll of likely voters by Public Policy Polling, which leans left, has Tillis winning white voters 49/35 over Hagan, but the share of white voters Hagan holds is enough for a southern Democrat to win statewide. Sixty-eight percent think the Tar Heel state is heading in the wrong direction, but the number one issue they said the state is handling poorly is education. Hagan and national Democrats have been hitting Tillis on this front. Also, independents in the state break for Hagan 41/33.

In the more right-leaning poll by American Insights has Hagan’s lead by 9-points–and the first recent poll showing her leading with male voters.

Then again, when it comes to the role of government, North Carolina is still conservative:

Our new American Insights data show that North Carolina voters remain fundamentally conservative regarding the role of government, with 51% saying it is doing too much and only 38% wishing government would do more. Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of voters (64%) say they care more about economic issues than social issues (26%).

The economy is the number one issue with all likely voters in North Carolina. As for social issues, those might not be the issues that will galvanize voters to lean towards Tillis. The Civitas poll showed that 44 percent of North Carolina voters support less restrictions on abortion compared to the 40 percent who do.

On the other hand, American Insights found that “faith driven” voters make up one-third of the North Carolina electorate–and they’re not happy with either Tillis or Hagan:

Our new American Insights data show that Faith Driven Voters – citizens whose faith significantly influences their voting decisions – comprise a full third of the electorate in North Carolina, people who hold sufficient votes to, if motivated, decide the North Carolina elections in either direction. These voters, who see politics through the lens of their faith and believe they have a responsibility to vote, don’t believe either party or candidate for the U.S. Senate represents them well at this point in the race.

This powerful voting bloc appears to be up for grabs; there are more than enough disaffected Faith Driven Voters to swing the North Carolina senate race to the candidate who is best able to genuinely connect with them. Kay Hagan scores low with these voters, but Thom Tillis is also underperforming with them. While Kay Hagan’s rating among FDVs is consistent with that of the Democratic Party, Thom Tillis lags behind the Republican Party by seven points. This leaves each candidate with a unique opportunity down the stretch.”

This is maddening. There are many avenues to carve a winning strategy. Right now, Tillis is pushing back on the ads against him over education, but will he double-down and present a narrative more aligned with economic issues–48 percent think Obamacare will have a negative impact on North Carolina–or will he try to improve his standing with faith-based voters to try and maximize the turnout with the Republican base.

There is a possibility that he can combine the two. Last week, Katie and Guy wrote about the GAO report that showed that federal insurers are ignoring federal rules that prevent the subsidization of abortion through various health care plans.

From his debate performance, Tillis seems to be positioning himself well as the anti-Obama candidate, but we know from 2012 that’s not enough. Democrats learned that as well in 2004 with John Kerry.

A fall groundswell is expected as those who were not paying attention to the election in the summer might become more attentive as we head into the final weeks of the campaign. Additionally, in the coming three weeks, Republicans have reserved a majority of the airtime in North Carolina, which could give Tillis a boost in the final stretch.

More airtime, a new avenue of attack concerning Obamacare, the well of untapped faith based voters, and Jeb Bush–who also endorsed him–flying in to assist on the campaign trail; there’s definitely time for Tillis to turn this around.