Skip to comments.Race Rating Change: North Dakota Moves in Demsí Direction (US Senate)
Posted on 08/22/2012 7:40:23 PM PDT by randita
Race Rating Change: North Dakota Moves in Dems Direction
By Shira Toeplitz Posted at 7:41 p.m. on Aug. 22
Republican Rep. Rick Berg is running for Senate in North Dakota. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo) This week proves what a difference a strong candidate can make, even in partisan states.
In the wake of the implosion of Rep. Todd Akin (Mo.), Republicans quietly bemoaned their hands-off recruitment strategy. They need look no further than North Dakota to see that candidate recruitment matters.
At the start of the cycle, Republicans believed this seat would be an easy pickup. But former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) proved a strong candidate, and shes run a nearly flawless campaign against the GOP nominee, Rep. Rick Berg.
Accordingly, Roll Call is belatedly changing its North Dakota race rating to Tossup. For months, we rated this race as Leans Republican, citing the GOPs past political performance in the state. But over the summer, Democrats ran a stronger campaign here and polling shows its working for Heitkamp.
To be clear, this race ratings change does not mean Democrats have a 50-50 shot of keeping the seat of retiring Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). Republicans still hold a narrow advantage.
But it does mean North Dakota belongs in the most competitive echelon of Senate races with Virginia, New Mexico and Nevada.
Repeatedly, Republicans mentioned Heitkamps stellar candidacy as the reason for this shift although none interviewed would go on record with that description. Shes a much better candidate than anyone anticipated, allowed one top Republican operative based in Washington, D.C.
I feel good about the race, but the Democrats have a strong candidate, another national Republican operative said.
Last November, Heitkamp entered the race as a Democrat who last sought office more than a decade ago. Skepticism followed: Her voice of support for the 2010 health care law did not poll well in a state that gives the president a 37 percent approval rating.
To reintroduce her to voters, Democrats went on the air early. It was a cheap investment about $80,000 for a week of statewide television this spring and it paid off.
In turn, Republicans have struggled to respond with a consistent message. For example, Crossroads GPS spent $717,000 on several ads blasting Heitkamp by focusing on her support for the health care law. They recently shifted tactics to attack her tenure as attorney general, but the spot backfired and they were forced to swap out part of the advertisement.
Bergs own messaging has left some of his fellow Republicans scratching their heads. For example, he aired a spot touting support from Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), a strong bipartisan figure in the state, in the primary. His general election messaging has shifted from testimonials to local issues to attacking Heitkamp.
Polls have shown the race as a statistical tie for months. Although Democrats sponsored several of those surveys, Republicans have yet to respond with their own internal numbers.
Finally, its worth noting that Heitkamps campaign wouldnt necessarily work in another state as red as North Dakota. Shes benefited from the states small, nontransient population. (Who wants to leave a state with a 3 percent unemployment rate?)
The universe of voters in North Dakota is so small about 500,000 that people really get to know their candidates. One operative coined the state the New Hampshire of the Midwest.
Despite all of this, Berg retains the means to put this race away. In addition to his own deep pockets, the Republican reported three times as much as Heitkamp in the bank as of the end of June.
Thats money that will go a long way especially in North Dakota.
Another race that should be a slam dunk.
I’m going to register to vote here in ND. The dem is running a campaign of half truths here. Berg needs my vote
I can’t imagine that a few appearances with Paul Ryan, John Thune & Sarah Palin couldn’t put Berg over the top.
This race will be won by 10 points minimum when the race heats up in the fall. Rasmussen has Berg up 4-5. And granted he’s not a great candidate but with Obama at top of ticket the headwinds will be way too strong for the Rat.
Not sure why at this point they`re making this assessment. The only poll that ever showed Heitkamp ahead was one by Mason-Dixon in June that showed her at +1. Since then, Ras had Berg at +9. But if Dems want to blow $$$ on that race, so be it.
Great. Not only is Akin going to lose us Missouri, but he’s going to lose us North Dakota, Massachusetts, and Virginia too.
Moving in the ‘RATS direction. Figures. North Dakota must already have gotten tired of their new found prosperity. It would be just like the morons to elect someone who will help the ‘RATS shut it down.
I think Roll Call is clueless. Do they read polls?
“But it does mean North Dakota belongs in the most competitive echelon of Senate races with Virginia, New Mexico and Nevada.”
New Mexico? Henrich (D) leads by 7.7% at RCP (winnable by our side but certainly not in the most competitive four). Obama is crushing (+10) in New Mexico as well. Not even in the top NINE most competitive at RCP.
Nevada? Heller has lead in every poll since May and his scandal-ridden opponent is not looking too good. Another minor Flub by Roll Call to include this in the top four most competitive. I put it about fifth or sixth
North Dakota? Berg leads by 5.0 at RCP (it’s barely in the tossup category—How did they miss Massachusetts—closest senate race or Montana or recently Missouri. Romney leads Obama 51-36 in ND. I think Berg will be fine in the end. I’d put it about seventh (not Top 4)
My 4 most competitive would be VA, MA, MT and MO. Indiana only had Mourdock by +2 last month (Rasmussen) so this could also be more competitive than ND.
Even CT?! is looking more competitive very recently than New Mexico
Actually, Brown is up, Berg will win, and VA will be much more affected by the presidential race than something that will hardly be blip by November. I wanted to see Akin out, but the electorate hardly follows their own candidates, much less ones half way across the country.
If the rest of the state doesn't think that it is benefiting from the oil boom that Heidi wants to "slow down" (it is still a boom, but leveling off at a level which can be sustained if all factors are right for a decade or more), we can always go back to a miserable economy and kids leaving for elsewhere (and jobs).
Then the numbers will start moving for real.
Please register, please vote.
I have to make sure my good friend and sincere libertarian and believer in “don’t vote it only encourages them” registers and votes this year.
I mean, you really can’t b*tch if you don’t vote.
And this year we must ALL vote to DRIVE THE DEMS FROM POWER.
Look at the lawlessness of Obama, forget everything else. Forget the economy and everything else. Look at the things he does and the pass he gets from the press.
Part of my would love to see him declare martial law, or somesuch, just to see how the NY Times, et al. would react. But the way more bigger, saner, part of me just wants him and his party GONE.
Brown up in new poll. Dem hopes in ND are BS. People seem not to like Berg very much but will not lose as Romney wins the state 3-2.
VA is a tossup at worst.
And I’ll still eat my hat if HEIDI! comes within 4 points of victory.