Democrat Kay Hagan has her work cut out for her in challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole: Tell people about herself.
N.C. registered voters are much more likely to have an opinion about Dole than they are about Hagan, according to a poll from The Charlotte Observer and NewsChannel 36.
The poll also found that registered voters have generally favorable impressions of both major candidates for N.C. governor, but they think Republican Pat McCrory would do a better job than Democrat Bev Perdue.
The 2008 Carolinas Poll is designed to get a sense of what's on the minds of North Carolinians – not to predict winners in the November election. The poll was not based on voter rolls, so respondents identified themselves as registered.
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It's not unusual for many voters to remain undecided until a few weeks or days before Election Day. For Hagan, who is making her first run for statewide office, getting voters to learn about her is even more important against the well-known Dole.
“I haven't investigated Kay Hagan entirely yet,” said Brenda Lankshear, 59, a student in Raleigh. “She seems like a nice enough person. I just don't know who I'm going to vote for yet.”
Lankshear, a registered Democrat who describes herself as independent, said she is thinking about voting for Dole to provide balance in the Senate against a possible Democratic presidency.
Though Dole has run for office in North Carolina only once and has lived out of state almost all of her adult life, 78 percent of registered voters said they had an opinion about the Salisbury native. Forty-eight percent said it was favorable while 30 percent said it was unfavorable.
Asked about Hagan, 73 percent said they had no opinion or had never heard of her. Nineteen percent had a favorable view while 7 percent had an unfavorable one. Hagan has served in the N.C. Senate from Greensboro since 1999.
Charles Bizzell, 60, is retired and lives in Charlotte. He said he hasn't heard much about Hagan. “I heard she's not a nut,” he said.
But Bizzell, who's not affiliated with any political party, said he's ready to vote against Dole.
“I'm going to vote against Republicans for the next 30 years because of what George Bush has done,” he said, citing the Iraq war.
Asked who would do a better job, 45 percent of registered voters said Dole and 34 percent said Hagan.
Asked whether Dole has paid close attention to N.C. issues during her first term, 47 percent agreed while 37 percent disagreed.
In the governor's race, 40 percent of registered voters thought McCrory, Charlotte's mayor, would do a better job. Thirty percent thought Perdue, the lieutenant governor, would.
“I'm a registered Democrat, but I think Democrats as a whole have made several bad mistakes,” said Joseph Parks, 64, mentioning state scandals in the mental health and probation systems.
Parks, a retired highway patrolman in Wilson, said McCrory seems like a competent manager. “If he's run a big city, he ought to be able to run the state of North Carolina,” Parks said.
The poll found little support for the notion that Charlotte candidates face particular resistance in the rest of North Carolina. Asked how McCrory's residence will affect him, 35 percent said it would help, 9 percent said it would hurt and 50 percent said it would make no difference.
“I've heard him on the radio, and he's the one I see the most and hear the most about,” said Ladonna Dedmond, 44, an office manager near Shelby.
McCrory's four predecessors as Charlotte mayor lost a combined seven races for statewide office. But Charlotte-area voters' familiarity with him helped McCrory win the GOP primary in May.