An unexpected new player has entered the advertising wars in advance of tomorrow’s North Carolina Republican U.S. Senate primary. The campaign of incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), who voted for Obamacare and continues to support it, has paid for radio ads and direct mailers attacking Republican establishment backed Thom Tillis because he once called Obamacare “a good idea.”
Though unusual, it is legal for an incumbent senator to interfere in the opposing party’s primary battle. Senator Harry Reid used the same tactic in 2010 to encourage a primary victory by Sharon Angle, the Tea Party-backed candidate who he beat in that year’s general election.
Hagan’s deployment of a similar tactic this year indicates she believes Tillis is a more dangerous threat to her re-election in November, and that she prefers to face Tea Party-backed Dr. Greg Brannon. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that “[t]he maneuver is apparently intended to undermine enthusiasm in the GOP base for the Republican who is seen as her strongest potential challenger in November.”
An Elon University poll conducted April 25 to April 28 of 672 likely North Carolina voters concluded that “[o]f the Republican frontrunners in a primary election bid to unseat Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan later this year. . . only one has developed significantly higher levels of name recognition in recent months: Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives.”
But Tillis, the poll found, has only a 21 percent favorable impression rating.
The poll also found that “Hagan, who has nominal opposition in the next week’s primary, has her own struggles. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they disapproved of her job performance, and 35 percent said they approved, a slight improvement from her 33 percent approval rating in February but still within the margin of error.”
Tillis needs to exceed the 40 percent threshold in tomorrow’s primary in order to avoid a runoff with the second place finisher.