Political prognosticator, cable TV talking head, and UVa political scientist Larry Sabato is seeing things trending Kay Hagan’s way this year:
Another week is down the drain in the race for the Senate, and while our overall outlook is unchanged — a five to eight seat gain for the GOP — some of our ratings are in need of adjustments.
One of these comes as a surprise, as Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) is proving to be quite resilient.
Several Democrats privately expressed to us earlier this year their pessimism about Hagan’s chances. They didn’t think she had the wherewithal and entrenched image of someone like Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who is a much more respected campaigner. But now those same Democrats, to their surprise, believe Hagan can now win. And we’ve seen a lot of polling, both public and private, indicating that she is ahead, though she’s closer to 45% than 50%, which is still tenuous territory for a Democratic incumbent in a Republican year.
The problem for Republicans in the Tar Heel State is that Thom Tillis, their candidate and the speaker of the state House of Representatives, has particularly poor numbers for a challenger: His unfavorables are usually higher than his favorables, and not just by a few points.[…]
Hagan’s numbers aren’t great, either, though they appear to be improving: There’s some indication that her favorability is inching up to near an even split, meaning her favorability and unfavorability ratings would be about the same. And even though the president remains unpopular nationally, this state is several points more Democratic than Alaska, Arkansas, or Louisiana, three states where Democratic incumbents with deeper roots and better reputations as campaigners are in more trouble than Hagan is at the moment. President Obama’s not the drag here that he is in those states, though he is still a drag.
For all these reasons, we’re moving North Carolina from Toss-up to Leans Democratic.
We may be getting ahead of ourselves here. Remember: Hagan is really only at 45% or so, and even though there is a Libertarian in the race, Sean Haugh, who can pull votes from Tillis, his share of the vote appears to be decreasing from the high-single digits to the mid-single digits. Tillis still absolutely has a path to victory, but he seems stuck at the moment.[…]