Raleigh, N.C. — Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is the Republican Party's best shot to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, according to a new poll.
Public Policy Polling said this week that Forest, who was elected to his first public office in November, garners 18 percent support from GOP voters in a hypothetical primary. He easily beats 5th District Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, at 13 percent, state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, at 12 percent, and 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, at 10 percent.
The only announced Republican candidate, Cary obstetrician Dr. Greg Brannon, scores only 4 percent support, while state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis, two big names expected to join the campaign, scored 8 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
Tillis began appearing this week on a television ad campaign by a 501(c)4 called the North Carolina House Legislative Partners. The ad is supposed to tout the agenda of House leaders, but political observers speculated that it's more designed to raise Tillis' profile.
Hagan continues to have a clear lead over every potential Republican candidates for the general election, according to PPP, which leans Democrat.
Forest and 10th District Congressman Patrick McHenry come the closest Hagan but still trail by 10 points each, at 50 to 40 percent for Forest and 49 to 39 percent for McHenry. Berry and Foxx each face 12-point deficits against Hagan, while Ellmers trails by 13 points.
Forest told The Charlotte Observer that he's not interested in running for U.S. Senate, saying that he likes his current job.
Hagan leads among independents and pulls a larger percentage of the Democratic vote than her prospective opponents do with the Republican vote, PPP said, noting the race would eventually tighten up as the GOP field narrows.
Her approval numbers continue to be mixed, with 42 percent of voters approving of her and 39 percent who disapprove.