Thom Tillis narrowly trails Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in the North Carolina Senate race, according to an internal poll conducted for the Republican challenger's own campaign, but the incumbent is struggling to attract support among voters who indicated they were most likely to cast a ballot in November.
The survey, conducted by GOP polling firm Public Opinion Strategies and obtained by National Journal, shows Hagan ahead of Tillis 44 percent to 42 percent but well within the margin of error, with Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh drawing 6 percent support—results that closely match a battery of recent public surveys in the Tar Heel State. The poll—which, like all internal surveys leaked to the media, should be viewed warily—was taken Oct. 4-7 and interviewed 600 likely voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Hagan has unexpectedly emerged as the strongest Democratic incumbent in a Senate battleground this year, holding a narrow but consistent lead over Tillis in a state that backed Mitt Romney in 2012. It has been months since any public poll showed Tillis ahead. But Tillis's campaign, in a memo, argued that her small edge depends on turning out voters among the least likely to vote on Election Day. The poll found that the Republican actually leads Hagan 47 percent to 43 percent among voters who rated their interest in the election, on a scale of 1 to 10, at 8 or higher. That bloc that constitutes 75 percent of the total electorate polled.