Although Kay Hagan has a 49-40 lead in our most recent poll of the Senate race, the contest is by no means over. 7% of voters are undecided, and among the 93% who do have a current preference 20% say they could change their minds between now and the election. That leaves about a quarter of the vote up for grabs over the last month of the race, a smaller figure than the third of voters who are persuadable for Governor but a substantial number nonetheless.
Kay Hagan and Elizabeth Dole have equally solid levels of support. 82% of Dole's supporters say they're definitely going to support her, and 82% of Hagan's supporters are sure they'll vote for her. As in the Governor's race the Libertarian candidate has pretty weak support from people who may be 'parked' there until they choose between Dole and Hagan. Only 38% of those currently saying they support Christopher Cole report being firmly committed to him.
If you recalculate the state of the race with just voters who absolutely know who they are going to support for Senate you end up with Kay Hagan at 40%, Elizabeth Dole at 33%, and Christopher Cole at 2%. That certainly puts Hagan comfortably in the driver's seat but it's also far from over.
-Like the voters who were up in the air for Governor, the swing voters for Senate are a very Democratic leaning group, both in terms of their registration figures and the way they are leaning in their votes for other offices. 47% are Democrats, 30% are Republicans, and 23% are independents. They support Barack Obama for President by a 49-38 margin. Perdue and Hagan's fortunes are both going to have a lot to do with whether all these folks expressing support for Obama also cast ballots for the rest of the ticket. While only 21% of John McCain's supporters could go either way on their vote for Senate, 26% of Obama's supporters say they could. If those numbers were more equal Hagan would have the race virtually on lock.
-Somewhat along those lines, black voters make up 21% of the voters who could go either way for Senate, just as they make up 21% of the likely voting population. Usually the percentage of black undecided or weakly committed voters is a good deal smaller than the population as a whole because of their solid support of the Democratic Party but that isn't completely coming through yet in the race for Senate. Elizabeth Dole enjoyed surprisingly strong black support in 2002- that really isn't coming through this time, but Hagan may still have some work to do. Maybe Barack Obama has a couple minutes to record some robo calls for Hagan and Perdue.
-These voters are disproportionately from small towns. That's where Elizabeth Dole has tended to be very popular but clearly all the scrutiny of her effectiveness and attentiveness to North Carolina has raised doubts with a lot of these folks. Hagan has built up a 47-41 lead with them, but a large number are open to going back to Dole if she can convince them that she has done a good job or that Hagan's politics are too far out of line with theirs. This will be a key group to watch in polling over the rest of the campaign- if they start shifting Dole might have a chance but if they stick with Hagan she'll be up in DC picking out her office next month.
-Like in the Governor's race, there are a lot of persuadable voters in the under 30 demographic. These voters are coming out to vote for President, and a lot of them haven't given much attention to the rest of the ballot yet if they ever will. They're a hard group to target with mail or phone calls because they move so much, but the campaigns that do the best job of connecting with these voters in a substantive manner may get a leg up.
I expect that Kay Hagan will win this race since she has the lead already and the demographics of the swing voters favor a Democratic candidate but there are enough voters up for grabs that Elizabeth Dole at least has a bit of a chance.