Formerly one of the 2014 election cycle’s most embattled Democrats, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) has outperformed the pundits’ expectations.
The Democratic Senator has lead in state House Speaker Thom Tillis in all of the 13 polls taken of the Tar Heel State’s Senate race since the end of August. While political analysts still believe that the Republicans’ path to a Senate majority remains intact, many have begun to dismiss the GOP’s chances in North Carolinas.
Today, however, Tillis supporters have new reason to be hopeful. Partnering with Survey USA, a High Point University poll of 584 likely voters released on Monday showed the race for Senate in North Carolina is a dead heat with both Tillis and Hagan tied with 40 percent support.
“We have been saying all along that North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race had the potential to be extremely close. These results show that it may be a tie going into the home stretch. Voters make two basic decisions: whether to vote and for whom they will vote when they get there. This particular race will likely hinge on how partisans make that first decision,” says Dr. Martin Kifer, director of the HPU Poll. “Thinking about the results in these three races, we see some of the same factors playing out in North Carolina that are affecting incumbent re-election chances in our other highlighted states. President Obama’s approval is relatively low. People are pessimistic about the direction of the country. And the Republican Party makes a strong showing in the generic congressional ballot test.”
Curb your enthusiasm, the skeptic would plead. One poll is just that, and it is far more instructive to consult the average of polls to get a more accurate picture of where this race is today. But the Real Clear Politics average of surveys in North Carolina will not prove comforting for Hagan supporters either:
While the incumbent still maintains a slight lead, it is lower than at any point since the summer. Moreover, the trend line clearly indicates that Tillis’s support among North Carolina voters has been growing while Hagan’s is stable or even slightly declining.
Via FiveThirtyEight, Survey USA’s results are consistently reliable and have a statistically negligible pro-Republican house effect.
All this having been said, professional poll-watchers are urging the public and the press to not read too much into this survey:
The point is SUSA (among others) have had some weird cross tabs over history… and I'd be careful in reading too much into raw #s.
— Harry Enten (@ForecasterEnten) October 13, 2014
High Point University and Survey USA also polled the Senate races in New Hampshire and Colorado. The findings in Colorado were consistent with other recent surveys of the Centennial state with Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) trailing his Republican opponent Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) by 4 points. The results in New Hampshire were, however, surprising. In the Granite State, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) maintains just a slim lead over former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown with 48 to 46 percent support.
These numbers should be disturbing for Democrats but, with rare exceptions, the political landscape has only been growing more favorable for Republican candidates ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
An earlier version of this article included a tweet attributed to the Senate race in North Carolina which was actually related to the race in Colorado.