Raleigh, N.C. — State Sen. Fred Smith and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory are in a virtual tie for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, according to a WRAL News poll released Wednesday.
Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. surveyed 400 likely Republican voters on Monday and Tuesday and found Smith is supported by 32 percent of voters while 31 percent favor McCrory. The poll has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
Smith leads among men and voters 50 and older, while McCrory was stronger among women and younger voters, according to the poll.
McCrory had been seen as the front-runner for the GOP nomination since he entered the race in January. He blamed attacks by Smith and fellow candidate Robert Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice, for an erosion of support.
"There is a trend in politics where negative campaigns do have an impact, and right now, one of my opponents, Mr. Smith, is running very negative and inaccurate campaign ads," McCrory said.
"We have not gone negative. What we have done is point out words that came out of his mouth and his record. We've only talked about things that are true," Smith said.
One in four Republican voters remains undecided with less than a week until the May 6 primary.
Orr and Salisbury attorney Bill Graham each drew less than 10 percent support in the poll.
Respondents said they thought Smith was more capable to handle issues like illegal immigration and crime control, while McCrory was seen as better equipped to address the state economy, reforming the Department of Transportation and the state mental health system and dealing with gangs.
On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue holds a 45 to 34 percent lead over State Treasurer Richard Moore. Twenty percent of voters remain undecided.
Mason-Dixon also surveyed 400 likely Democratic voters Monday and Tuesday. That poll also had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
Perdue leads Moore among all categories of voters identified in the poll: men and women, young and old, white and black, Democrat and independent. Those surveyed also rated her most qualified to address various issues facing North Carolina.
Almost half of voters gave Perdue a favorable rating, compared with 28 percent for Moore. Fifty-seven percent said they liked her recent decision to pull all ads attacking Moore, but voters were fairly evenly split on how they viewed Moore's advertising.
"It doesn't seem as though the proclamation – that hers would be a positive campaign from now on – has hurt her," said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University.
Perdue also leads in financing heading into the primary. Campaign finance reports show she raised $2.2 million in the last three months, including a $500,000 loan, while Moore raised $1.9 million, including a $900,000 loan.
She has $938,000 on hand, compared with $339,000 for Moore.
Taylor said Moore must count on undecided voters to upset Perdue next week.
"The key unknown here is the effect that the exaggerated turnout will have on the gubernatorial race," he said.