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« McConnell Leads Own Poll | Blog Home Page | Schweitzer, Baucus Look Safe »

Another Close NC Poll

After winning the Democratic primary by an easy margin earlier this month, North Carolina State Senator Kay Hagan has enjoyed a few weeks of increased attention from national observers. A new poll from a conservative-leaning North Carolina-based think tank shows that new attention could be merited, as many begin to anticipate a close re-election race for incumbent Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole.

The poll, conducted for the Civitas Institute by Tel Opinion Research, a Republican firm based in Virginia, surveyed 800 likely voters between 5/14-17 for a margin of error of +/- 3%. Dole and Hagan were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Dole......45 / 23 / 78 / 35 / 48 / 42
Hagan...43 / 65 / 13 / 47 / 37 / 49

Both candidates have room to grow among their own base, but Dole has significant ground to make up among independent voters. Hagan, too, could benefit from Barack Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket; while the Illinois Senator is unlikely to win the Tar Heel State, he could boost African American turnout, a group that backs Hagan by a huge margin, according to the poll.

This isn't the first poll showing a close race. A late April poll showed Hagan down just seven points, while one automated dial poll had the Democrat leading by a single point. Dole, though, has a long way to go before national Republicans need to start panicking. Just a few weeks before the primary, Dole held a commanding ten-to-one financial lead over Hagan, with $3.16 million on hand compared with Hagan's $317,000.

Dole has started using her financial advantage early. The campaign released a positive advertisement touting Dole's work on immigration in cities around the state. The spot, which features town and county sheriffs praising Dole's efforts to find and deport illegal immigrants, serves another purpose as well. Hagan's campaign has already signaled that they will criticize the incumbent for being out of state too much, but Dole "went all over North Carolina," says one sheriff in the ad.

While immigration may not be the number one priority of North Carolina voters, using the geography shows Dole's team is working to build an impression that the senator is always in town. "On one level, the Dole ad is not about immigration at all," said one Washington Republican with extensive experience in North Carolina. The subtle message: From Beaufort to Raefort, Greensboro, Hendersonville, Lexington, Mocksville and Salisbury, Dole has spent significant time in the state.

Polls continue to show a close race, and that will likely fuel strong fundraising performances for both candidates in the months to come. But while Dole remains a favorite ahead of November, the contest will be one to keep an eye on.