Until the last weeks of the election, polls consistently showed Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd and Democrat former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley in a dead heat for North Carolina’s open U.S. Senate seat. But as undecided voters have begun solidifying their choices, it seems they are breaking heavily toward Budd.

The latest poll of the race, by The Hill in collaboration with Emerson College Polling, shows Budd achieving two new milestones — breaking the 50% mark and leading outside of the margin of error. An earlier East Carolina University poll had shown Budd with a 6-point lead and breaking the 50% mark, but that mid-October poll was largely seen as an outlier at the time.

But the new poll shows Budd with just over 50% of the vote compared with 45% for Beasley. When undecided “leaners” are added, each candidate gains 1%, leaving Budd with 51% and Beasley 46%.

The three polls immediately preceding that, from Marist, Civitas/Cygnal, and Trafalgar, showed Budd with a 4-point lead and just under 50%.

“This poll fits what we have seen from most recent polls, which show Budd with a 3-to-5 percentage-point lead,” Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, told Carolina Journal. “The last nonpartisan poll that had Beasley ahead was taken back in August. Budd appears headed toward a solid win.”

In the latest Emerson/Hill poll, Budd’s favorability had an even more significant advantage, at 53% favorable to 40% unfavorable (+13), compared to 46% favorable and 48% unfavorable for Beasley (-2).

In terms of issues that N.C. voters care about as they head to the polls, the Emerson/Hill survey found that far and away the biggest was the economy, with 41% choosing this option. In a distant second, with 13%, was “abortion access.”

With Republicans focusing their campaigns largely on the economy and Democrats often on abortion, this indicates Republican messaging may be breaking through better in the final days. The poll report said that 49% of voters trust the Republican Party more to handle inflation, while 39% said they trust the Democratic Party. Unaffiliated voters favored Republicans on inflation, 48% to 31%.

“The economy and the impact of inflation on family finances continue to be voters’ top concerns,” Jackson said. “That makes Democrats’ emphasis on abortion and supposed threats to our democracy appear misplaced. However, it is hard for them to run on the government’s economic performance when they control the White House and both houses of Congress.”