The news media covered former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush coming to Greensboro yesterday. It was an event for Tillis — the coverage included footage and photos of Bush and Tillis — but the story was all about “Will Jeb, or won’t he?”.
The New York Times appears to be shocked at “Kay Hagan’s surprising strength”:
If there is any state where the Democrats are defying expectations — and where Republicans should be kicking themselves — it’s North Carolina.
This spring, North Carolina looked like the obvious sixth pickup state for the Republicans, just enough to take the Senate. The state is competitive only in presidential elections when turnout rises, especially among young andnonwhite voters. The Democratic incumbent, Kay Hagan, needed to compensate with big inroads among conservative white voters. But the polls showed her poorly positioned to do so. Her approval ratings were low; she was stuck in the low 40s among registered voters against Republican candidates who had yet to win their party’s nomination.
It couldn’t look more different today. If the Democrats assemble a firewall in defense of the Senate, the polling suggests North Carolina will be its bulwark. Ms. Hagan leads her Republican challenger, Thom Tillis, in nearly every survey over the last month by an average of more than three percentage points.[…]
The media has been spinning about Tillis’s alleged “women” problem. The Times finds another demographic for the GOP standard-bearer to worry about:
[…] The polls suggest that Ms. Hagan has compensated for her turnout problem by faring well among voters who are 65 and older. The polls showing Ms. Hagan ahead that have released results by age show the two candidates tied among such voters, with both Ms. Hagan and Mr. Tillis at 44 percent of the vote. That’s better than Ms. Hagan’s performance six years ago, when she lost those voters by eight percentage points.
Ms. Hagan’s gains among this group are particularly important in an off-year election, since in 2008, Ms. Hagan did not fare well among voters over age 30. Her entire margin came from 18- to 29-year-olds who supported her by an astounding — and not replicable — 47-point margin, according to the exit polls.
The idea that Ms. Hagan might be doing well among older people isn’t completely inexplicable. Although North Carolina seniors reliably vote Republican in federal elections, Democrats still have a voter registration advantage, as they do across much of the South. It’s not a small edge, either, with 51 percent of the older voters registered as Democrats compared with just 33 percent as Republicans. And so far this year, Democrats have generally been faring a little better among seniors than they have been over the last few cycles.
But Ms. Hagan’s success among this demographic is still a little hard to explain. She has not had a Senate career aimed at winning over conservative white Democrats, either. She’s not Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, for example. She’s a fairly mainstream Democrat running a fairly mainstream campaign.
If Ms. Hagan were an especially popular figure, who had capitalized on the typical advantages of incumbency by improving her image and appeal over the past six years, then perhaps one could imagine how she was doing better than she was six years ago. But almost all of the available evidence suggests that Ms. Hagan’s ratings are just as mediocre as they were this spring. […]
DC-based political analyst Stu Rothenberg also has a sobering take on the GOP campaign against Hagan thus far:
[…] North Carolina is proving to be a major headache for the GOP. Not nearly as red as Alaska — Obama carried it narrowly in 2008 before losing it narrowly in 2012 — Republican challenger Thom Tillis appears to be trailing Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan by more than a couple of points.
Democrats have poured resources into this race, and by November they are likely to have out-spent Tillis, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and GOP-allied groups by $7 million.
Democratic attacks definitely hurt the challenger, particularly on education, and many Republicans are growing skeptical that Tillis can overtake the incumbent. At some point, the NRSC may have to decide whether to stay in the race or pull out. But for now, Hagan’s weakness, the state’s competitiveness and the president’s unpopularity keep this contest in play.[…]