From the New York Times’ Nate Silver, the young electoral prognosticator:
North Carolina is the closest thing to the tipping point state in the Senate battle. If Republicans avoid losing any of their own seats (other than New Jersey), and win the races that favor them in Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota and the tossup races in Louisiana and Arkansas, then North Carolina would represent their best option to go from a 50-50 tie to a 51-49 Senate majority.
Republicans have also not yet identified a top-tier challenger in North Carolina. But the approval ratings of the Democratic incumbent, Kay Hagan, are no better than break-even, which means that a merely decent Republican nominee could make the race very competitive. Although North Carolina is increasingly purple in presidential election years, the coalition of African-Americans and college-aged voters that Democrats depend upon to win races in the state is less likely to turn out for midterm elections.
The only declared Republican candidate to run for the Senate seat in NC next year is Cary, NC physician, Greg Bannon. Bannon and Senate President Phil Berger who has been sniffing around the idea of challenging Hagan both polled recently at 40 percent to the incumbent Senator’s 44 percent. That bodes extremely ill for sitting Senator Kay Hagan as incumbents normally lose their re-elections if their approval drops and holds at 47%.
It is of course early in the game since the primary isn’t until the spring of 2014. A few other names are also being mentioned in The Tar Heel State as challengers to Sen. Hagan including US Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-Harnett Co.). Ellmers promised a decision by mid-July just a few weeks ago.
The second-term congresswoman has previously stated she is considering a primary bid to challenge Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., one of the 2014 cycle’s most vulnerable senators. Earlier this year, s spokeswoman told CQ Roll Call that Ellmers would make a decision by June.
Ellmers now says she will announce her decision within two weeks.
Apart from state Speaker Thom Tillis, who entered the race in May, contenders in the GOP field remain uncertain.
In addition to Ellmers, Rep. Virginia Foxx, state Senate President Phil Berger, the Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte First Baptist Church, and former Ambassador Jim Cain have all said they are considering running.
Back to Nate Silver’s predictions: it seems that Hagan is very weak as compared to other incumbent US Senators up in 2014. But as we’ve all seen in the past, incumbents have power and strong challengers either never materialize or fizzle out when the campaign gets going. To those wanting to see two strong Conservatives elected to the US Senate from North Carolina in 2014: the clock is ticking.