Thom Tillis and Phil Berger have challenges

House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger have some work to do if either wants to be the next senator from the great state of North Carolina.

In the Elon University Poll, 67 percent of respondents don’t recognize Tillis’ name, and 64 percent didn’t recognize Berger’s name.

And that’s not even the biggest challenge they face.

Tillis, a Republican from Cornelius, has been in the state legislature since 2006 and has served as Speaker of the House since 2011. Berger, a Republican from Eden, has been a senator since 2000 and has been Senate Majority Leader since 2011. Tillis has declared his candidacy for the Senate seat now held by Kay Hagan, a Democrat. Berger hasn’t. Yet.

The general election is more than a year off so there is time to build name recognition.

The steep hill before them is that both men have high unfavorability ratings.

Of those who said they knew Tillis’ name, only 22 percent rated him favorably and 35 percent unfavorably. For Berger, it was 21 percent favorable and 30 unfavorable.

For comparison, Hagan’s job approval rating is 38 percent, and her disapproval rating is 35 percent. So, she’s clearly vulnerable, which state and national Republicans know.

Digging into the numbers:

Tillis: More Republicans have a favorable impression than Democrats (15 percent vs. 11 percent); more men than women (30 percent vs. 15 percent); and more whites than blacks (23 percent vs. 17 percent.)

Berger: More Republicans have a favorable impression than Democrats (34 percent vs. 12 percent) and more men than women (23 percent vs. 18 percent). In something of a surprise, more blacks than whites (24 percent vs. 20 percent).

Again, it’s early. Both men had many, many people who, even though they recognized the candidates’ names, didn’t have an opinion on them.

All of the “don’t knows” can translate into people who don’t associate either man with the actions of the General Assembly. Given the low ratings of the General Assembly, that’s a good thing.

— John Robinson

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