Boosted by TV ads, Tillis takes a solid lead in Senate race

01/14/2014 1:52 PM

01/14/2014 1:53 PM

An early television ad campaign appears to have boosted Republican Thom Tillis’ standing in the U.S. Senate race, though his current margin isn’t projected to help him escape a run-off election.

For the first time in the still-young race, the House speaker is putting distance between himself and the other candidates as he leads the field with 19 percent of the vote, according to a Public Policy Polling survey. It’s a six point jump for Tillis who spent $300,000 earlier this month to run the first TV ad in the Republican primary.

The next closest GOP rival is Greg Brannon at 11 percent, the Raleigh-based Democratic polling firm found. Heather Grant and Mark Harris pulled down 8 percent and Bill Flynn posted 7 percent of support. The January poll was conducted before Ted Alexander announced his bid this week and made it a six-way race.

This is how pollster Tom Jensen cast the race: “The name recognition Tillis gained by being the first candidate to run TV ads probably helped drive his increased support this month. Forty-six percent of Republican primary voters are familiar with Tillis, compared to less than 30 percent for everyone else in the field.

“Tillis is now leading in every region of the state except the Triad, where Flynn is well known from a long radio career. Perhaps more importantly for Tillis he has the lead with both conservative and moderate voters at this point.”

However, if the margins remain constant, Jensen projects that Tillis would only reach 34 percent support, short of the 40 percent needed to win outright in the May 6 primary.

All GOP candidates remain deadlocked with Hagan in hypothetical general election matchups.

The poll has a plus-or-minus 4.1 percent margin of error. It was conducted with 80 percent automated phone calls and 20 percent through web surveys – the first North Carolina Senate poll under PPP’s new methodology.

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