Democratic polling memo shows House races remain toss ups

Republican grip on a handful of key state House districts is weakening, according to a new Democratic polling memo, though many voters remain unsure on the best candidate in 2014.

The N.C. House Democratic Caucus says the numbers look good to challenge Republican incumbents Susan Martin of Wilson (House District 8), Brian Brown of Greenville (HD 9), Nelson Dollar of Cary (HD 36) John Szoka of Fayetteville (HD 45) and Michele Presnell of Burnsville (HD 118).

The spin: Gov. Pat McCrory is unpopular in five districts he won overwhelmingly in 2012 and “now a drag on the ticket heading into the 2014 cycle for the very Republicans who were elected on his coattails in 2012.” (See attached memo.)

The analysis came from Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling. The caucus hired the Democratic polling firm to test the waters last week in those five districts. In addition to the McCrory factor, Jensen sees three other issues the Republicans must confront: all have negative approval ratings and re-election numbers below generic Democrats; House Republicans as a whole are unpopular in those districts; and the incumbents are vulnerable to Democratic messaging on education, according to the memo.

The Democratic tact is nothing new and the numbers reflect PPP polling since the contentious 2013 legislation session. In some cases, Republicans overcame deficits in 2012 to win super-majorities in both the House and Senate. The caucus tested candidates against the incumbents but refused to release the numbers.

“Voters are clearly unhappy with the Republican agenda in Raleigh,” said Casey Wilkinson, the caucus director. “As a result, a wide playing field is developing for House Democrats this cycle.”

Even though the five Republican incumbents have higher disapproval than approval numbers, the polling shows Republicans can work to convince voters to pick them. In two cases (Martin and Brown), their approval numbers are essentially deadlocked within the margin of error and in all five situations at least 40 percent of voters remain undecided.

The automated poll was conducted Jan. 21-22 and the margin of error ranges from plus-or-minus 3.1 to 3.8 percent, depending on the district.

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