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« Warner Declares For Sen | Blog Home Page | NC Primary Eyes Iraq »

Hagan The Next Webb?

On a day when Mark Warner declares his candidacy for a Senate seat in Virginia that appears to be his for the taking, one might recall Senator Jim Webb's upset of incumbent Republican George Allen as the biggest surprise in 2006. This year, if Democrats are to achieve any measure of massive majority in the Senate, they will need at least one more Jim Webb to come along and upset someone thought to be an entrenched incumbent.

Two new surveys in North Carolina show that the state may be this year's answer to Virginia in 2006, especially given what is likely to be a blowout in the Democratic primary. The first, a Mason-Dixon poll, surveyed 400 likely Democratic primary voters between 4/28-29 on behalf of WRAL-TV, for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Hagan, investment banker Jim Neal, attorney Marcus Williams, truck driver Duskin Lassiter and Howard Staley, a doctor, were tested.

Primary Election Matchup
(All / Men / Wom)
Hagan 42 / 34 / 48
Neal 17 / 21 / 14
Williams 5 / 5 / 5
Lassiter 2 / 2 / 2
Staley 1 / 2 / --

Initially, Hagan and Neal were polling neck and neck, but after a blitz of television advertising and stronger than expected fundraising numbers, Hagan has pulled out to a big lead. If Hagan pulls off a big win in tomorrow's primary election, it could give her a boost as she begins to target incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole.

A Dole-Hagan matchup could prove a close contest, as a new poll from Research 2000 suggests. The survey, taken 4/28-30 on behalf of DailyKos, tested 600 likely general election voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Hagan, Neal and Dole were tested.

General Election Matchups
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Dole 48 / 15 / 87 / 47 / 52 / 44 (+2 from last, 12/07)
Hagan 41 / 70 / 8 / 39 / 38 / 44 (+2)

Dole 49 / 16 / 87 / 49 / 53 / 45 (+2)
Neal 39 / 67 / 8 / 38 / 36 / 42

In a general election match, Hagan would start as a distinct underdog. Through the April 16 filing deadline (later because the state's primaries are so close to the end of the quarter), Hagan had just $317,000 in the bank, a tenth of Dole's $3.15 million. And in a state John McCain is likely to carry no matter the Democratic presidential nominee, convincing down-ballot voter to split their tickets could be difficult.

But Hagan has raised an impressive $1.52 million, much of which she has spent on making the primary with Neal a blowout. And trailing by just seven points in public polls is on par with Webb and others from the 2006 cycle; a Democratic poll taken in late June, 2006, showed Webb trailing Allen by a 46%-39% margin, and a Mason-Dixon poll in late July had Allen leading by a whopping 16 points. And Hagan's campaign brags that only Missouri's Claire McCaskill and Ohio's Sherrod Brown have raised more money through the First Quarter of 2006.

Beating Dole, a well-known incumbent, will be difficult. But Hagan starts out with relatively high name recognition -- 44% view her favorably, while just 25% view her unfavorably and 31% have no opinion. Dole has the same 44% favorable rating, though 41% say they view her unfavorably, which could be a problem for the incumbent down the line. Barring any mistakes, Dole will remain the favorite heading into the fall. At the moment, though, Hagan looks poised to capitalize on any slip up, and there's a long way to go before November.