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Thom Tillis attends a debate between the four top-polling Republican candidates in North Carolina for the U.S. Senate, at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina April 22, 2014. Picture taken April 22, 2014. To match USA-NORTHCAROLINA-SENATE REUTERS/Davis Turner  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS HEADSHOT) - RTR3MNGY
Thom Tillis
PPP's first post-primary poll in North Carolina tells us we're in for a weird election this year. For the first time, PPP included third-party candidate Sean Haugh, who just won an incredibly rare Libertarian primary over ultra-nutter Tim D'Anunnzio, and they find Haugh taking a huge 11 percent of the vote. Consequently, both major-party nominees are in the 30s, with Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan leading Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis by a 38-36 spread. That's the same as the 2-point edge she sported a month ago, so Tillis hasn't gotten any kind of post-primary bounce.

Of course, as every poll-watcher knows, Haugh is almost certain to earn a smaller share of the vote on Election Day. But Libertarians have been playing a bigger role in recent years, often to the detriment of Republicans, and it's not unreasonable to imagine Haugh could pull down 5 or 6 percent of the vote. In Montana's 2012 Senate race, for instance, a Libertarian took 6.6 percent, far in excess of Jon Tester's 3.7 percent margin of victory. And last year in the Virginia governor's race, Libertarian Robert Sarvis captured 6.5 percent—again, much more than Terry McAullife's final 2.5 percent win.

And PPP's numbers do indeed demonstrate that Haugh is hurting Tillis more than Hagan. When Haugh's supporters are re-allocated based on which candidate they lean towards, Tillis moves into a 41-41 tie with Hagan. That could make all the difference in a close race, as this one seems apt to be. What's more, as Tom Jensen points out, the undecideds actually are a Dem-leaning group. They went 55-37 for Obama, which is unusual in a red state. So Tillis can't simply expect to hoover these voters up—he'll actually have some persuading to do. And given how far he lurched to the right to win the GOP primary, that may not be so easy.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue May 13, 2014 at 10:52 AM PDT.

Also republished by North Carolina BLUE and Daily Kos.

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