Tillis trails Democratic Senate challenger by 2 points: poll

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial Republicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment Koch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says MORE (R-N.C.) is narrowly trailing his potential Democratic opponent Cal Cunningham in North Carolina’s closely watched Senate race, according to a new poll released first to The Hill on Wednesday. 

The poll, conducted by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) and commissioned by the Democratic outside group End Citizens United, shows Cunningham leading Tillis 45 percent to 43 percent. Twelve percent of respondents said they weren’t sure who they would support. End Citizens United has already endorsed Cunningham in the North Carolina Senate race.

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It also shows Tillis’s favorability rating under water. Fifty-one percent said they have an unfavorable opinion of the first-term senator, while 33 percent reported having a favorable view of him.

Trump fairs better: 49 percent of respondents reported an unfavorable opinion of the president, compared to 47 percent who hold a favorable opinion. Still, the PPP survey shows a generic Democratic presidential candidate with a slight lead over Trump in a general election match-up, 50 percent to 47 percent.

Of the 628 registered North Carolina voters surveyed, 42 percent said they consider themselves Democrats, while 35 percent said they are Republicans and 23 percent identified as independents. 

Still, the poll is the latest sign that North Carolina’s Senate race may end up being one of the most contested of the 2020 cycle. Democratic officials say that Tillis’s seat has become a “top-tier target” for them, while Republicans are confident that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE’s reelection bid next year will buoy their chances in the state. 

Tillis is also facing a primary challenge from Garland Tucker, a retired businessman who has already pumped at least $700,000 of his own money into his campaign. 

Tillis’s allies have so far dismissed the challenge, but there are signs that he may be starting to take it seriously. On Monday, he unveiled a $2.2. million television and radio ad buy that is set to air through the March 3 primary.

The PPP poll surveyed 628 registered North Carolina voters from Sept. 16-17. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

--Updated at 2:02 p.m.