A new rundown of the top 10 U.S. Senate races in the country most likely to flip puts the North Carolina horserace between Republican Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley in sixth place.
The compilation by CNN shifted the N.C. race to be slightly more competitive than the TV network’s last round of rankings. Recent polling has shown tightening in the race. A Civitas poll of likely general election voters put support levels for both candidates at 44%, while the same poll from June put Budd ahead of Beasley 45% to 40%. A WRAL-TV poll released this week gives Budd a slight edge at 43% to Beasley’s 42%.
Budd is a congressman representing the state’s 13th district, while Beasley is a former chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court who lost her re-election bid to that office in 2020 by 401 votes.
Even with the tightening conditions, Republicans have several good reasons to be optimistic, according to Dr. Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at the John Locke Foundation.
“One thing that may provide the Budd campaign some solace is that North Carolina GOP Senate candidates have consistently outperformed polls in recent races,” Jackson said. “In 2020, polls taken in the last week of the campaign had Democrat Cal Cunningham up by an average of 3%. Republican Thom Tillis won by 1.8%. The last three polls before the 2016 Senate race either showed a tie or Republican Richard Burr up by only 1%. He won by 5.7%. The swing in 2014 was a little smaller, going from a 0.7% advantage to Democrat Kay Hagan in the polls taken the last week of the election to a Tillis win by 1.7%.”
A Democrat hasn’t won a Senate seat in the Tar Heel State since 2008, when Hagan defeated incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole 53% to 44%. That year was a wave election for Democrats as they picked up eight Senate seats and 21 seats in the U.S. House, in addition to the White House with the election of Barack Obama.
The political environment this year is different than 2008, as midterm elections typically favor the political party not in power in the White House. In addition, economic concerns in the form of raging inflation are top-of-mind for voters.