Sean Haugh, a 53-year-old Libertarian Party nominee in North Carolina, is imperiling Republican Thom Tillis’s chance to defeat incumbent Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) in North Carolina’s Senate race, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling.
Hagan leads Tillis by four points, 42% to 38%, with Haugh capturing 8% of the vote in the poll of 867 likely voters conducted between August 14 and 17. The lead is just outside of the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.4%.
The poll found Haugh supporters would pick Tillis over Hagan by a 61-19 margin. In a two-way race without Haugh, Hagan’s lead over Tillis drops to one point, 43% to 42%, a statistical dead heat. With Haugh out of the race, Tillis adds four points, Hagan adds one, and undecided increases by three.
Unfortunately for Tillis, Haugh will be on the ballot in November, making his battle to victory more difficult. The seat is widely considered a must-win for Republicans if they hope to take control of the Senate.
Haugh, a pizza deliveryman by day, is a five-time unsuccessful candidate for other offices with virtually no money or campaign infrastructure.
Haugh’s campaign to date consists of a series of quirky You-Tube videos in which he drinks a beer and extols the virtues of Murray Rothbard, the hyper-individualist libertarian who broke with conservatives in 1969 in a rupture with the “fusionism” that had held social conservatives, defense hawks, and libertarians together through the 1950s and 1960s.
Tillis defeated Tea Party-endorsed challenger Dr. Greg Bannon handily in the Republican primary back in May, but the heated contest left some level of bruised feelings and discontent among local Tea Party activists.
It is not clear if Haugh has made significant inroads among North Carolina Tea Party activists who typically vote Republican in the general election. Whether they will support Tillis with any level of enthusiasm in November, however, seems to be an open question at present.
Though the Democratic incumbent Hagan is considered vulnerable due to her high level of unpopularity in North Carolina for supporting President Obama’s agenda on two signature issues: Obamacare and amnesty for illegal aliens, the poll shows Tillis must cut in to Haugh’s support in order to take advantage of those vulnerabilities and win in November.