Monday, January 27, 2014

With Rising Focus, US Senate Race Comes to North Meck This Week

Not much time these days for detailed blog research, but wanted to pass along some interesting links on the North Carolina US Senate race.  We are about to become the center of attention for the remainder of this year as control of the US Senate hangs in the balance on just a few states - North Carolina being one of them.

Here's what the major political analysts have to say on the race at this point.  The Rothenberg Political Report and the Cook Political Report still have North Carolina tilting Democrat, but Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia recently moved North Carolina's race back to a pure tossup.

From last week's Sabato's Crystal Ball...

NORTH CAROLINA: Just based on the fundamentals, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) should be in better shape than her fellow Red-state Senate Democrats running for reelection in 2014. Remember, President Obama won North Carolina in 2008 and only lost it by two points in 2012, which makes the Tar Heel State by far the most Democratic of any of the seven Romney states that feature Democratic Senate incumbents this cycle. However, as the national environment has worsened for Democrats since the botched Obamacare roll-out, Hagan’s status as a slight favorite for reelection has ebbed. HuffPost Pollster has her very narrowly trailing state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) in general election trial heats, even though Tillis only leads GOP primary polling with less than 20% (perhaps an indication of low name ID). Along with an approval rating mired in the low 40s, these are signs that Hagan is vulnerable. Hagan’s weakened position prompts us to move this race from Leans Democratic to TOSS-UP. Republicans should continue to be worried about their potential nominee here, though: Tillis leads the unpopular state legislature, and there are several other lesser-known Republicans in the race who could potentially cause them general election headaches.

Last week also saw some recent polling numbers from Public Policy Polling showing NC House Speaker Thom Tillis with a lead in the Republican primary.  Combined with the Tillis campaign's large fundraiser numbers, many will be tempted to say the Republican primary race is all but wrapped up - exactly what the Republican establishment at the state and national levels want everyone to believe.

But like any competition, the other side gets a vote - in this case that's the grassroots conservatives in the state.  This post from the provides a very different take and some interesting insight into the recent poll numbers.   It refers to discussions with pollsters from some unreleased polls, so there's no way to truly verify the conclusions.  However, the Haymaker mentions pollsters showing surprisingly high negatives for Tillis in the greater Charlotte area.  If true, that likely has some thing to do with the dynamics around the widening of I77 with tolls - something Thom Tillis has been supporting.  Last June, we wrote here about that dynamic, and its potential impact on this Sentate race.  With the toll road issue still lingering, it will be interesting to see how it ultimately impacts this race.

That all takes us to this week.  On Thursday, Republican candidates - except for Thom Tillis - are scheduled to meet in Huntersville for a forum put on by the new group - Lake Norman Conservatives.  The new group has its genesis in the I77 controversy.  Speaker Tillis apparently has a prior commitment like he has had for other candidate forums recently.  His absence plays into a growing storyline that he's intentionally missing these local forums as a deliberate campaign strategy.  See more on that idea from Davidson College blogger Cam Harris.

Things are about to heat up!  It will be fun to watch!

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