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According to a new Public Policy Polling survey, U.S. representative Virginia Foxx has a big lead in the race for the Republican nomination in North Carolina’s 2014 Senate election.

The poll finds that 23 percent of Republican voters want Foxx to be the GOP nominee, followed by state Senate president pro tempore Phil Berger at 11 percent, state House Speaker Thom Tillis and U.S. representative Renee Elmers at 9 percent, former U.S. ambassador Jim Cain at 8 percent, obstetrician Greg Brannon at 7 percent, pastor Mark Harris at 4 percent, and former Charlotte City councilwoman Lynn Wheeler at 3 percent.

Foxx’s 12-point advantage is built on the strong support among self-described “very conservative voters,” 32 percent of whom back her for the nomination. That puts her well ahead of Elmers, who ranks second among very conservative voters at just 12 percent. These numbers are hardly surprising; Foxx, who won the 2012 American Conservative Union award, is widely considered to be one of the most right-wing members of the House.

Conservatives who support Foxx for the nomination should be careful what they wish for, however. Foxx’s long history of extreme positions and puzzling statements should have Republicans deeply concerned that she is the Tar Heel State’s version of Todd Akin: beloved on the right, but unelectable in a statewide race.

Among many other incidents that would certainly attract a spotlight in the general election, Foxx has:

—Warned that Obamacare would lead to seniors “being put to death by their government”
—Referred to the murder of Matthew Shepard as “a hoax” that liberals use as an excuse to pass hate crimes bills.
—Repeatedly used the racial slur “tar baby” on the House floor
—Baselessly described the man who shot Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others as a “communist” and “the liberal of liberals.
—Said that she has “very little tolerance” for those with student loan debt.

And that isn’t even touching her political positions, which are popular in her home district but skew far to the right of North Carolina — a swing state that Mitt Romney won by just 2 percent in the 2012 presidential election.

In a head-to-head matchup with Foxx, Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan would lead by a 46 to 39 percent margin. This is larger than her lead against all but Cain, Harris, and Wheeler, none of whom have name recognition higher than 30 percent.

Hagan remains a very vulnerable incumbent, with a split 41 to 42 percent approval rating — well below the 50 percent level that is often cited as a “magic number” for those seeking re-election. But if Republicans do indeed nominate the right-wing, gaffe-prone Foxx to challenge her, then Hagan’s re-election prospects will instantly look a lot brighter.

Photo: Rep. Virginia Foxx via Flickr.com

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