A poll released Friday by High Point University echoes what previous surveys have said about Tuesday’s North Carolina primary: Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton are way ahead in their respective races.
The new poll, conducted after early voting began March 3, found that among likely Republican primary voters and those who have already voted, 48 percent favor billionaire businessman Trump, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the runner-up, with 28 percent. Ohio Gov. John Kasich got 12 percent in the poll; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has the most endorsements from N.C. public officials, received just 8 percent.
In the Democratic primary, according to the poll, former Secretary of State Clinton is leading Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 58 percent to 34 percent, among likely and actual voters.
As lopsided as these and other N.C. polls’ findings have been, polls are under something of a cloud in this election year. Last week, for example, polls indicated that Clinton would easily win the Democratic primary in Michigan. She ended up losing, narrowly, to Sanders. The trade issue, which hurt Clinton in Michigan, could be a factor in North Carolina, too, where many factory jobs have disappeared.
Hoping to nail down North Carolina and avoid any more surprises, Clinton will return to the state on Monday night for a rally at the Grady Cole Center in Charlotte.
On Sunday, Cruz, hoping to make it a closer race with Trump, will headline a rally at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. He will return to Fayetteville on Monday.
Also voting Tuesday: Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri.
The High Point University Poll also asked likely and actual voters about North Carolina races. Among those findings:
▪ A big majority of GOP primary voters – 73 percent – favor re-nominating Gov. Pat McCrory for a second term. Among Democratic primary voters, Attorney General Roy Cooper is the one to beat, with 64 percent.
▪ The nominating contests for U.S. Senate are closer. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who is running for a third term, is ahead with 56 percent. Challenger Greg Brannon, who is hoping to tap into anger at the Washington establishment, is favored by 20 percent. Seventeen percent of those polled are still undecided.
▪ In the Democratic battle for the chance to take on Burr, former N.C. Rep. Deborah Ross is ahead, with 52 percent. The three other candidates are bunched together in single digits, but 27 percent of the voters are still undecided.