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Heitkamp has 4-point lead in poll by ND Dems

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FARGO -- Heidi Heitkamp is leading Rep. Rick Berg by 4 percentage points in the North Dakota Senate race, though that is still within the margin of error in the newly released poll commissioned by the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party.

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When asked whom they would vote for, 48 percent said Heitkamp, 44 percent said Berg and 8 percent were uncertain or said other candidates.

The same poll also had Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney ahead of President Barack Obama by 12 points in North Dakota. Romney received 51 percent while 39 percent favored Obama.

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, was conducted by Indianapolis firm Stone Research Services in calls to 600 people from Monday through Thursday.

According to the poll, 59 percent of those who responded believe the country is on the "wrong track" while 34 percent believe it's generally headed in the "right direction" and 7 percent are unsure.

The Heitkamp campaign was quick to praise the new poll results in a race that has been dubbed a toss-up and Republican-leaning by most outside observers.

"This is confirmation that people are ready for someone who's willing to do something a little bit different, like Heidi," said Brandon Lorenz, chief spokesman for Heitkamp's campaign. "Someone who's willing to put North Dakota ahead of all these partisan politics."

In a statement, Berg's campaign said the firm that conducted this poll was the same that had then-candidate Barack Obama leading in North Dakota in 2008 when he went on to lose in the state by 8 points.

"We continue to be encouraged by the positive response to Rick Berg's message of changing the U.S. Senate to balance our budget, repeal Obamacare, and reduce out of control spending to put people back to work and put our country back on track," said Chris Van Guilder, spokesman for the Berg campaign.

More poll respondents thought Berg was running the more negative campaign between the two than thought Heitkamp was the more negative. Forty-six percent, regardless of whom they support in the Senate race, said Berg is running the more negative campaign, while 24 percent said Heitkamp was more negative.

The poll also gave Berg lower favorability numbers. For Berg, 45 percent had a favorable opinion, and 46 percent held an unfavorable opinion. Fifty-three percent held a favorable opinion of Heitkamp, while 39 percent saw her unfavorably.

The Berg-Heitkamp battle continues to be in the national spotlight because the outcome of the race could help tip the balance of power in the Senate.

Polls have continued to shift in the race. In July, national pollster Rasmussen Reports had Berg leading Heitkamp 49 percent to 40 percent. Rasmussen polls predicted Berg's win over Democratic incumbent Earl Pomeroy in 2010.

Three Democratic-sponsored polls since November have found Heitkamp ahead of Berg by between 1 and 5 points.

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