We’re less than a month away from the May 6 primary election, and according to a new poll, the Republican race in the state for a seat in the United States Senate looks like it’s headed for a runoff.
Tom Jensen, of the left-leaning Public Policy Polling in Raleigh, said that North Carolina Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, leads the GOP field with 18 percent of voters’ support, and his nearest competitor, OBGYN Greg Brannon, sits at 15 percent.
“Thirty-four percent of voters remain undecided, but Tillis would have to win about two-thirds of those undecideds in order to get to 40 percent. Unless something changes drastically, we are going to be headed to a second primary,” Jensen said.
This is somewhat surprising, Jensen said, considering that Tillis’ lead is so narrow in spite of having more name recognition than the rest of the Republican field. Sixty percent of voters know enough about Tillis to have formed an opinion, compared to 31 percent for Brannon, according to the poll.
“It is just a situation where his [Tillis’] campaign has not really caught fire with voters yet,” Jensen said. “Also, when we see so many voters undecided still, it shows that a lot of people just haven’t tuned into this race at all yet. But we could see more happen in these last four weeks than we did in the previous six months combined.”
The general election numbers remain stagnant, with incumbent Senator Kay Hagan receiving negative approval numbers. Forty-one percent of voters approve of the job she is doing compared to 48 percent who disapprove. This is the same trend that Jensen said he has observed since attack ads began airing in October concerning her connection with Obamacare.
Hagan also trails most of the Republican candidates by small margins, except for her most likely opponent, Tillis.
Jensen said the state Speaker of the House remains unpopular with voters due to his affiliation with the controversial 2013 legislative session.
“Republican [candidates], I think, in general would be favored against Hagan,” Jensen said. “But they may have sort of given her a life-line by running somebody else [Tillis] who is an unpopular politician against her, as opposed to somebody maybe outside the system.”
Similarly, Jensen said Hagan will have to overcome her association with Obamacare.
To see the full results from Public Policy Polling, click here.