Toss-Up: NC Race Tied, But Tillis Has More Room To Grow

Posted: Oct 31, 2014 4:15 PM

Elon had a poll showing Sen. Kay Hagan with a 4-point lead over Republican Thom Tillis, but left-leaning Public Policy Polling did a survey on behalf of the League of Conservation Voters showing the race virtually tied.

The poll, which is D+12, has Hagan leading Tillis by only 1 point 47/46, which is quite remarkable since PPPs last North Carolina poll on October 20 had her up 3 points 47/44. The sample consisted of 657 likely voters.  An official PPP poll on the North Carolina race will be released in the coming days.

As others have reported, the race is a pure toss-up, folks. Roll Call’s Rothenberg reclassified the race as such. Additionally, the Huffington Post’s pollsters recently wrote that Tillis has been slowly eating away at Hagan’s advantage in the polls–and that Tillis may have more room to grow as Election Day near, especially with Undecideds [emphasis mine]:

The HuffPost Pollster tracking model, based on all public polls but calibrated to match the trends from the independent, non-partisan pollsters, gives Hagan an edge of just under one percentage point, as of this writing (44.8 to 43.9 percent) and a probability of victory of barely better than a coin flip.

Thursday's new polls included an internal survey conducted by Tillis pollster Public Opinion Strategies showing a tied race (44 percent each). Campaigns are typically selective about the polling data they share, releasing favorable results and holding back the bad, but Democrats conceded that their data also shows a close race in North Carolina. On Thursday, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee executive director Guy Cecil said their internal models show North Carolina within "the margin of error." [POS, WashPost]

The recent trends reflect a pattern that Republican strategists and analysts like RealClearPolitics Sean Trende predicted. Since early September, Hagan's share of the vote has remained essentially flat (at roughly 45 percent in the Pollster chart) while the Tillis number has increased from 42 percent in September to 44 percent over the past week, suggesting that Tillis may have further room to grow his support among undecided voters.

Even FiveThiryEight said that Tillis’ prospects of victory have never been better, but also noted that this surge might be “too little, too late,” especially with early voting.

Yet, it’s not a doom-and-gloom picture on that front either (via NYT):

The turnout among black voters is particularly encouraging for Democrats, who need strong black turnout to compete in racially polarized states like Georgia and North Carolina. In those two states, black voters so far represent 30 percent of the voters who did not participate in 2010. By comparison, 24 percent of all those who voted in those states in 2010 were black.

But so far, there have not been enough new Democratic votes to erase the Republicans’ expected turnout advantage. It remains to be seen whether turnout among new voters will continue at these rates. The Upshot’s model, Leo, still gives the Republicans a 68 percent chance of taking the Senate.

On the campaign trail, Tillis has received some good news about the tax reforms he oversaw in Raleigh; North Carolina’s tax climate was ranked at a dismal 44 out of 50 to 16th best due to cutting the top personal income tax rate from 7.75 percent to 5.8 percent and reducing corporate rates from 6.9 percent to a flat rate of 6 percent. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also endorsed Tillis earlier today saying, “America faces challenges both at home and abroad. We need leaders in Washington to address these issues head on. Thom Tillis is an effective leader who can work across the aisle to solve problems and make our government more accountable to the people. I encourage you to join me in supporting Thom Tillis on November 4th.”

On the other hand, Kay Hagan is stumbling towards the finish line.

Earlier this week, pro-immigration activists hijacked one of her campaign rallies, slamming her for being “anti-immigrant.” The whole event got quite awkward (especially around the 55 second mark).  If there's one issue that Hagan does not want in the spotlight days before Election Day, it's immigration. Ebola and ISIS have done their part in shifting the race towards Tillis and the Republicans.

Over at Hot Air, Noah noted how Hagan fumbled her response to outside money expenditures in this campaign in her interview with PBS’ Gwen Ifill–with Ifill calling her out on her hypocrisy over the issue.

SEN. KAY HAGAN (D-NC): North Carolina is this purple state, but I feel very good about where we are. I do think that this out of state money is something that I’m very disappointed in. But it is because of the Supreme Court –

GWEN IFILL, PBS: But you’ve benefited from it as well?

HAGAN: You know, I think no matter who gives money it should be disclosed and I think it should be transparent. I’ve got legislation in the Senate that would do just that. Thom Tillis doesn’t support that. We’ve got to let the American public know who is putting this money forward. If you think about it, you’ve got a handful of the wealthiest people in this country that are dictating what 350 million hear and see on TV and that’s wrong. To me, that’s not democracy.

IFILL: But as long as that money is coming from people who support you it’s okay?

HAGAN: You know, I certainly wish that we could have disclosed where people — where no matter who gives money the public knows and follows that. That’s why I support this bill.

Hagan also mentioned how turnout will be essential, especially in these very close races, but are Democrats finished in this area? It’s an off-year election, and while the early voting numbers–as mentioned above–are good, they are unable to have an impact against the projected Republican turnout.

Also, Nate Cohn over at the New York Times has written this past spring about the Democratic turnout problems this year, which is compounded in North Carolina.

All I can say is that 2014 is going to be a fun election night–ten times more than 2012 that’s for sure.