Dems: Senate poll 'deeply flawed'FARGO — National and state Democrats quickly sought to discredit a Forum Communications Co. poll Thursday that showed Republican Rep. Rick Berg with a slim lead over Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race.
By: Kristen M. Daum, The Dickinson Press
FARGO — National and state Democrats quickly sought to discredit a Forum Communications Co. poll Thursday that showed Republican Rep. Rick Berg with a slim lead over Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race.
However, multiple political analysts say the poll — the first independent survey released on the race — is likely on target in describing what has become one of the most competitive Senate contests in the country.
Forum Communications’ poll found 51 percent of likely voters in the June 12 primary would choose Berg over Heitkamp if the general election were held at the time of the survey, conducted May 3 to May 8.
Essman/Research of Des Moines, Iowa, surveyed 500 likely North Dakota voters by telephone.
“I think your poll reflects where this race is and why,” said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor and analyst at the non-partisan Cook Political Report. “Berg’s lead reflects the GOP tilt in the state, but the close margin is an indication of Heitkamp’s strength as a candidate.”
The Cook Political Report classifies North Dakota’s race as a “toss-up,” while other national analysts, including Larry Sabato, rank the race as one tipped in Berg’s favor.
“This poll strikes me about right,” said Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “(Presidential candidate Mitt) Romney will win North Dakota easily, and there will be coattails for Berg.”
“Heitkamp is doing well for a Democrat in a presidential year, but close only counts in horseshoes,” Sabato added.
Upon the poll’s release at midnight, national Democratic operatives were quick to call the results an inaccurate and unfair reflection of the contest, because the poll surveyed North Dakotans who were likely to vote in the June primary.
Republicans face contested primaries for both the U.S. House and Senate races while Democratic candidates run unopposed, lending to a theory that Republicans might be more likely to vote in June than Democrats.
However, with two high-profile statewide ballot measures at stake in addition to the congressional races and local elections, the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office expects a record turnout on June 12.
Heitkamp’s campaign manager Tessa Gould said in a statement that the poll results were derived from “deeply flawed methods.”
“This poll is unreliable, because those who will vote in a primary with contested ballot measures differ from those who go to vote in November,” Gould said. “This is simply not an accurate poll of general election voters.”
Daum is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.