Democrat Dan McCready leads Republican Mark Harris by 7 points in North Carolina's 9th District in a new poll released Wednesday.
The new poll by the Civitas Institute, a conservative nonprofit in the state, found 43 percent of likely voters said they would vote for McCready while 36 percent said they would vote for Harris in the district that has long been held by Republicans. The libertarian candidate in the race, Jeff Scott, was supported by 3 percent of the poll's respondents.
"This race has all the indications of being a nail-biter into November, but Republicans should be concerned with a negative 7-point spread in a district that has an R+7 rating," Civitas President Donald Bryson said in a statement with the poll's release.
An R+7 rating refers to the district's Partisan Voter Index, a statistic created by the Cook Political Report that measures how the district votes in presidential years when compared to the national average.
Republicans have cautiously kept an eye on the race ever since Harris, a pastor in the district, defeated Rep. Robert PittengerRobert Miller PittengerBottom Line North Carolina reporter says there could be 'new crop' of GOP candidates in 9th Congressional District race North Carolina board calls for new election in contested House race MORE (R-N.C.) in the GOP primary earlier this year. Without the incumbent running, Republicans worried that Harris's victory could boost Democratic chances of competing for the seat that has been held by Republicans since 1963.
But Harris supporters believe that a candidate without the ties to the Washington establishment could prove to be a breath of fresh air for voters.
McCready, a veteran and small business owner, has proven to be a strong fundraiser. He had $1.2 million in the bank through mid-April, when candidates submitted their most recent fundraising reports, while Harris had just $70,000. Both candidates will file their second-quarter fundraising totals by this Sunday.
Harris faced criticism last week when ABC News reported that he raised questions about the role of women in the workplace during a 2013 sermon.
Andy Yates, a Harris strategist, accused the report of taking Harris's words out of context.
"Almost to a person every mom in the 9th District ... would agree that there is no higher calling than being a mother and a wife ... or a husband and a father," Yates told The Charlotte Observer, calling the attacks a "war on people of faith."
"That's sad that we've come to that point that we’re going to attack a pastor for preaching the Word of God," Yates added in comments to the Observer.
The ABC story was published late in the afternoon of July 5.
Civitas polled 600 registered voters in the district from July 5-8, 543 of which were considered likely voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.
The poll also found that both candidates carry net-positive approval ratings, even though a significant portion of the electorate was either unfamiliar with or neutral about both candidates.
President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump lawyers to Supreme Court: Jan. 6 committee 'will not be harmed by delay' Two House Democrats announce they won't seek reelection DiCaprio on climate change: 'Vote for people that are sane' MORE's favorability rating in the district was under water — 49 percent of those surveyed said they disapprove of the president's job while 43 percent said they approved.
A narrow plurality of 39 percent added that they support the recent GOP tax-cut plan, a possible boost for the Republican even though a quarter of voters said they were unsure of how they viewed that law.