Analyst: Berg-Heitkamp 2012 race now a ‘toss up’GRAND FORKS — In the wake of a recent poll showing Democrat Heidi Heitkamp leading Republican Rep. Rick Berg, a national political analyst said North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race is now a competitive “toss up.”
By: Ryan Johnson , The Dickinson Press
GRAND FORKS — In the wake of a recent poll showing Democrat Heidi Heitkamp leading Republican Rep. Rick Berg, a national political analyst said North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race is now a competitive “toss up.”
The Cook Political Report previously rated the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad as “likely Republican.” That meant the 2012 election would likely result in a victory for Berg, who announced earlier this year that he would run for the Senate instead of another term in the House.
The Washington, D.C., political-handicapping publication changed its rating to “lean Republican” last month, a move that showed a more competitive race after Heitkamp announced she would seek the Democratic-NPL nomination for the Senate.
Jennifer Duffy, the publication’s senior editor, wrote Thursday that some Democrats took issue with that November rating, especially after the national party released a Garin-Hart-Yang poll from August showing Berg with a 44 percent to 40 percent lead over a generic Democratic candidate.
“That survey was not enough to convince us that Democrats had an even-money shot at winning this race in a very Republican state,” she wrote. “It was taken just after the debt ceiling debacle, and did not test Heitkamp, though Democrats were actively recruiting her at the time.”
But a Mellman Group poll released last week warranted switching the race to the “toss up” column, Duffy wrote.
The poll, commissioned by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, showed 47 percent of likely voters supported Heitkamp and 42 percent supported Berg. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent; results were based on telephone interviews of 600 likely North Dakota voters Nov. 12 to 16.
“Democrats have made their case that with Heitkamp as their nominee, this race belongs in the Toss Up column,” Duffy wrote. “Republicans have countered with some equally persuasive arguments of their own as to why Berg will ultimately prevail.”
Berg and Heitkamp are the presumed frontrunners in North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race. Both face competition to win their parties’ endorsements at state conventions next spring, Berg from Duane Sand and Heitkamp from Tom Potter.
Johnson is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.