Photo courtesy of ThinkProgress.org
CHAPEL HILL – U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx (Rep.-Banner Elk) announced Tuesday that she will not run in next year’s Republican U.S. Senate primary. Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen says that with Foxx out of the mix, the Republican nomination is even more up for grabs than it was before.
Jensen says PPP consistently found in their monthly polls that Foxx was the top choice for North Carolina Republicans to challenge incumbent Senator Kay Hagan (Dem.- Greensboro).
“I think the key number on our last poll is that 40 percent of Republican voters didn’t know who they wanted their nominee to be,” Jensen says. “With Virginia Foxx, who was at the top of the heap, now not running, I could see that being up to now 50 percent of Republicans not knowing who they want when we do our September poll. I think it is really wide open, and I think there is a lot of room for more candidates to get in this race.”
Jensen says a recent PPP poll showed that 18 percent of Republicans said that Foxx would be their top choice as candidate to nine percent for both N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger and Jim Cain, and eight percent for N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis.
Of those who have already announced, Jensen says a sleeper may be Greg Brannon, a Cary gynecologist with political roots in the Tea Party movement. Jensen says Brannon has support from “the Ron Paul types.”
Jensen says voters have mixed feelings about Hagan, with 42 percent approving; 41 percent disapproving.
“Even though you see Kay Hagan with pretty substantial leads over all the Republicans at this point, they do have a chance to make this a closer race as they become better known in the state over the next year and three months,” Jensen says.
Hagan was first elected in 2008, defeating then-incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole the general election.
RALEIGH - Public Policy Polling(PPP) released their latest poll on the North Carolina Senate race this week, and for the third time in as many months found a different Republican front-runner to challenge Kay Hagan this fall.
“The top choice among Republicans to be their U.S Senate candidate next year would be Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest,” says PPP director Tom Jensen. “We find him polling at 18%, 13% for Congresswomen Virginia Foxx, 12% for Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, and 10% for Congresswomen Renee Ellmers. Everybody else who we tested drew single-digits.”
The poll also shows the probable Republican candidates are struggling with name recognition. Only Forest and Berry were recognized by over half of respondents.
Jensen says the lack of name recognition is leading to a wide-open race.
“In January, Virginia Foxx had the lead and last month Cherrie Berry had the lead,” says Jensen. “I think when you see a different leader every month like that, it just shows how really wide open the Republican Senate race is. None of the folks are particularly well-known at that point, and that means it is really up for grabs. Just about anyone could win the nomination.”
“She has leads ranging from 10 to 19 points against these Republicans,” says Jensen. “I think that Hagan is in a pretty decent position, but it is still going to get closer. We see a lot of undecided Republicans in all of these matchups simply because Republican voters are not familiar with their potential candidates”
According to Jensen, Dan Forest and Patrick McHenry poll the best in direct competition with Hagan.
Because of the lack of recognition of Republican candidates, Jensen says Hagan’s approval numbers may be a better indicator of how close the race could be this fall.