RALEIGH, N.C. — Most evenings, Sean Haugh is a pizza deliveryman.
But every other week or so, the Libertarian Party’s Senate nominee in North Carolina opens a few craft beers on the counter of the bar in his campaign manager’s basement. He takes deep gulps from a pint glass bearing an image of Austrian-school economist Murray Rothbard and expresses his Everyman frustrations with the current political system into a video camera.
So far, Haugh’s campaign barely exists anywhere but on YouTube. But it is doing surprisingly well in a high-stakes Senate contest in which candidates and outside groups have already spent more than $15 million.
Four polls lately put his support somewhere between 8 and 11 percent — not enough to suggest a realistic possibility of winning, but conceivably enough to affect the outcome of the race. The same surveys show the margin between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and her GOP challenger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, at six points or less.
“If it ends up being a one- or two-point race, Democrats could keep the Senate because of Sean Haugh,” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling (PPP), which showed the Libertarian at 11 percent in its May and June surveys.
That scenario might seem far-fetched, but considering how closely the battle for control of the Senate is being fought across the national map, the major parties are taking notice.
At a minimum, “we’re preparing for a very tight race down the home stretch, and every vote is going to count,” said Ben Ray, a spokesman for the Democrats’ coordinated campaign operation in North Carolina. “Definitely, Haugh’s got both sides’ attention.”