Under the Dome

PPP: Thom Tillis at 46 percent, may avoid runoff in Senate race

Following a surge in support, House Speaker Thom Tillis appears poised for an outright win in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, a new poll finds.

The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found Tillis at 46 percent among Republican primary voters, trailed by Greg Brannon at 20 percent and Mark Harris at 11 percent. The other five candidates registered in the single digits. A candidate needs more than 40 percent to avoid a runoff election.

It’s the highest number for Tillis so far and drew skepticism from the Brannon campaign. Three weeks ago, PPP found Tillis with 18 percent support and Brannon close behind at 15 percent and Harris at 11 percent. Tillis’ spike came amid millions spent on advertising to support his campaign, whether from the candidate or outside interests, such as the America Crossroads super PAC, the National Rifle Association and others.

Tillis is the preferred candidate among establishment Republicans to challenge Democrat Kay Hagan in November. Brannon, a Cary obstetrician, is endorsed by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and draws support from the tea party community. Harris, a Charlotte pastor, is trying to reach evangelical voters.

At the start of the month, a third of voters remained undecided but the latest PPP poll, conducted Saturday through Monday, found the number fell to 12 percent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.

The TV, radio and mail campaigns helped boost Tillis’ name recognition roughly 20 points since the previous poll, the survey showed. His favorable rating also jumped to 56 percent among GOP primary voters with 24 percent disapproval.

Brannon remains an unknown quantity to 38 percent of voters, the poll found, though his favorable rating sits at 47 percent. If he race did go to a runoff, Brannon and Harris both appear underdogs to Tillis, though the low turnout July 15 race makes it difficult to predict.

The spin from pollster Tom Jensen: “Tillis has a pretty thorough hold on every segment of the Republican primary electorate at this point- he polls at exactly 46% with moderates, ‘somewhat conservative,’ and ‘very conservative’ voters alike. He’s also over the critical 40% mark with men, women, voters in every age group, and voters in every region of the state.” Get more results here.