The U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis is tightening to a likely toss-up.
According to a Public Policy Polling survey released this week, Hagan is at 42 percent, with Tillis receiving 38 percent of the vote if the election were held today.
Last month, Hagan led Tillis 41-to-34, according to the same poll.
PPP Director Tom Jensen said that the Republican base is slowly starting to line up behind Tillis after a bruising seven-way primary in May.
Tillis received 46 percent of the vote in that contest, while Tea Party candidate Greg Brannon, his top challenger, got about 22 percent.
“Republican voters are really unifying around Thom Tillis as the election nears,” said Jensen. “A month ago, Tillis was only up 59 points with Republican voters. Now he’s up by 71 points with Republican voters.”
Jensen predicted that fading support for Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh of Durham will tighten things up to a one-point toss-up by Nov. 4.
“The Libertarian candidate, Sean Haugh, is getting eight percent of the vote,” said Jensen, “and if you ask people, the Haugh supporters, whom their second choice would be, they say it would be Tillis by a 61-to-19 margin.”
Both major candidates are running with low popularity overall.
Hagan is at 42 percent, and her unpopularity reflects that of President Obama’s in the state.
Meanwhile, disapproval of the General Assembly, and its handling of school budget-related issues in particular, are hurting support for Tillis.
“There was definitely an effort by Thom Tillis and Republicans in the General Assembly this year to try to come across as more moderate on educational issues,” said Jensen. “But they don’t seem to have had much success with voters on that front.”
In another PPP poll released this week, North Carolina voters gave Republican Governor Pat McCrory an average “C” grade for the work he’s done so far in office. He got an A or a B from 42 percent of voters, while 37 percent gave him a D or an F.
Because he received more F’s than A’s, by 20-to-17 percent, he gets an average of C.
The governor’s current approval rating is 43 percent, while 45 percent of voters disapprove of him.
The poll also finds McCrory only one point ahead of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, his potential Democratic opponent in 2016, at 44-to-43 percent.