Raleigh, N.C. — U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan holds early leads over potential 2014 Republican rivals, but that's primarily because people don't know or don't like the GOP options, according to a new poll.
Public Policy Polling, which leans Democratic, said Tuesday that voters give Hagan a three-way split, with 34 percent approval of her job performance, 36 percent disapproval and 31 percent with no opinion.
“Kay Hagan appears somewhat vulnerable in 2014, but the big question for Republicans is whether or not they can find a strong statewide candidate to challenge the Democratic incumbent,” PPP President Dean Debnam said in a statement.
Right now, 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and 10th District Congressman Patrick McHenry score closest to Hagan in polling, with Ellmers trailing 46 to 40 percent and McHenry trailing 45 to 39 percent.
North Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger trails 47 to 38 percent, and House Speaker Thom Tillis brings up the rear at 47 to 37 percent.
PPP calls Tillis' poll numbers "particularly embarrassing," noting that he has held town hall-style gatherings across the state over the past two years that "bordered on being a campaign."
A big part of why the Republicans fare so poorly is that they're pretty much unknown at this juncture, according to PPP.
Fifth District Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, who trails Hagan 47 to 40 percent, has the highest name recognition of potential candidates at 49 percent.
Foxx also is listed most often by Republicans surveyed as the person they want to see challenge Hagan. Twenty-one percent listed her as their favored candidate, compared with 15 percent for McHenry and 11 percent for Ellmers.
PPP surveyed 608 North Carolina voters and 449 usual Republican primary voters from Jan. 10-13. The margin of error for the overall sample is plus or minus 4 percentage points and 4.6 percentage points for the GOP portion.