Governing Matters in NC

There’s an understandable tendency when looking at all the southern Senate general election polls to put a big thumb on the scales in favor of the GOP candidates, for reasons of midterm turnout patterns, Obama’s approval ratings, money, and the general regional zeitgeist.

But there are sometimes other countervailing factors that should be noticed. In North Carolina, it’s the GOP’s very unpopular legislature, which isn’t very helpful to its House Speaker, Thom Tillis. Pretty much every time the legislature is in session, Tillis’ public standing, and his comparative strength against Kay Hagan, drops like a rock. Here’s PPP’s analysis of its latest poll on the Tar Heel State (its original speciality), which shows Hagan holding a five-point lead over Tillis:

Hagan’s expanded lead is likely a function of the General Assembly being in session- over the last year and a half her leads have always been the largest when the legislature and Thom Tillis’ role at the helm of it has been most in the news. Only 18% of voters approve of the job the General Assembly is doing to 54% who disapprove. Perhaps as an extension of that, Tillis has just a 23% favorability rating with 45% of voters rating him unfavorably.

On a couple of the more recent hot button issues the legislature has dealt with, voters do not support the Republicans’ approach. Only 31% think funding teachers raises through the House’s proposal of increased lottery sales (19%) or the Senate’s proposal of cutting teacher assistants (12%) is a good idea, while 55% would prefer getting that money by raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year. Even Republicans (40/39) would prefer increasing taxes on the wealthy to either the House or Senate’s proposal. The recent fracking bill passed by the legislature is unpopular too- only 29% of voters support it to 38% who are opposed.

In case you think PPP (a Democratic firm) is biased here, check out the new poll from the locally powerful conservative organization the Civitas Institute, which shows a 46/41 Tillis lead a month ago becoming a 47/43 Hagan lead now.

If I were advising Thom Tillis I’d suggest he consider pulling a Bob Dole and resigning his legislative seat, or at least make sure the session (traditionally a “short session” in even-numbered years) ends on time.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.