Has Kay Hagan had a good month in the NC Senate Model? Yes. Have the fundamentals of the race changed? No.
It’s been a month since I had data to update the NC Senate model. At the time, Hagan was up a very narrow 1.o%. Today, she hits a new high of 2.4%. Additionally, she’s up 3-4% in a few of the model prongs. It’s clearly been a few good weeks for her. Tillis remains an unpopular alternative. He’s tied to a very unpopular state legislature where he’s the leader of the State House. Sound familiar? Leaders of unpopular bodies have their work cut out for them, ask Eric Cantor. Ask Mitch McConnell. Ask Harry Reid (2010), who would’ve lost if Sharon Angle was not one of the worst major candidates of the last few cycles…and that’s saying something. So, if Tillis is not a great candidate, why hasn’t Hagan put this away? She’s terribly unpopular herself and she’s running in a still-right leaning state.
Hagan has had some great data points as the last three polls have her up 5-7%. But that’s a rosy glass. Why? In all of those polls, the 3rd Party candidate is getting 8-11%. That’s highly unlikely to happen come election day, especially if he doesn’t make it into the debates. Haugh, a Libertarian, is not some well-funded outsider. Instead, he’s just a regular guy who won a mostly non-competitive 3rd party primary. Essentially, that 8-11% of the vote is a vote for “none of the above,” at the moment. But, many of those voters are heavily right leaning. When it comes down to it, they’re likely to end up voting for Tillis or staying home. Sure enough, that’s why, when you see head to head numbers, Hagan drops back down to low single digits. Additionally, her biggest problem is, even in her most favorable model prong, I currently have her still stuck at 46%. Overall, without pushing weak leans and undecided voters, I have her closer to the 43% mark. That’s an icky place to be for an Incumbent in a state that’s not going to “come home” for you in the same way that Pat Quinn ended up pulling it out as a terribly unpopular Democrat governor in a Democrat-friendly Illinois who surged beyond the polling. Thus, Hagan is doing better than she should be and may be able to pull it out, despite the amazing war chest of money that has been spent against her. (For those of you who live in the state, like myself, the ads have been running non-stop for as long as I can remember.)
So, a better GOP candidate could have taken this race. Though, based on who they fielded in the primary, there were no good GOP candidates. Hagan may yet win this race, but, if she does, it will be because enough voters “didn’t like the other guy.”
NC Senate Rating: Toss-Up
Model Margin: Hagan(D) +2.4%