The Republican challenger to Sen. J. Kay Hagan (D.-N.C.) opened up a 48 percent to 43 percent lead in the highly competitive campaign according the latest Human Events/Gravis poll conducted Oct. 16-18 of 1,022 likely voters.

State Rep. Thomas R. “Thom” Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, trailed Hagan 46 percent to 42 percent in the previous Human Events/Gravis poll conducted Sept. 22-23 with 860 likely North Carolina voters, said Doug Kaplan, the managing partner of Gravis Marketing, the Florida-based polling company that executed the survey. The poll carries a margin of error of 3 percent.

“Tillis made a big move,” Kaplan said. “What it really means is that the campaign that had been a strictly local affair is connecting with the national fight for control of the Senate.”

“Hagan had been doing very well at making the race about her and Tillis, so that President Barack Obama’s sinking support did not affect her,” he said. “One month ago, Hagan was not only polling ahead of the president’s 42 percent approval rating, she was also outpolling the GOP governor.”

In the September poll, Gov. Patrick L. McCrory was ahead of Democrat Roy A. Cooper, 45 percent to 42 percent, Kaplan said. “To look at it another way, support for Tillis is finally lining up with that of the Republican governor—a sign that individual personalities are less of a factor.”

The polling sample was comprised of 39 percent Democrats, 34 percent Republicans and 27 percent of respondents, who identified themselves as Independent, he said.

The African-American vote is critical in this state and makes off 20 percent of the voters, Kaplan said. “Eighteen percent of our respondents are black, which is lines up with that population’s 80 percent turnout in 2012.” Nationwide in 2012, black voter turnout was 66 percent, which for the first time topped the turnout of white voters.