The NRSC announced that they’re putting big money into winning North Dakota’s Senate seat for Rick Berg, which would be a pick up from Democrats. The narrative surrounding this move from some media outlets and, of course, the Democrats is that Republicans are worried about a race they had previously thought they’d win.
Heidi Heitkamp campaign staffer claims Republicans just “hit a very expensive panic button.”
— Brandon Lorenz (@bllorenz) August 29, 2012
The conventional wisdom is that Berg is under-performing in this race while Heitkamp is exceeding expectations. Maybe that’s true, but I’m not sure Heitkamp is in as good a shape as some seem to think, and I don’t think this move by the NRSC communicates anything significant.
Taking a Senate seat away from as visible a Democrat as Kent Conrad has always been a big priority for Republicans. From the talks I’ve had with campaign and party officials going back into last year, before Heitkamp was even in this race, they were never going to take it for granted. Because let’s face it, a lot of North Dakotans have no problem voting for a Democrat. North Dakota’s federal delegation had been all Democrat for decades before Republicans (including Berg) broke through last year to take a Senate seat and the state’s at-large House seat.
As marginalized as the North Dakota Democrat party is, Republicans never assumed that national Democrats were going to give up this Senate seat without a fight. Given that, this investment from the NRSC’s in North Dakota was probably always going to happen.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I suspect we’re going to see some polling numbers in the coming weeks that aren’t so great for Heitkamp, and the reality of this race is going to cut through the smoke screen created by Democrats very quickly.
Update: A Republican reader emails to note that it’s not like the Democrats haven’t invested heavily in Heitkamp’s race. The DSCC and Majority PAC (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “Super PAC”) have made the following purchases, commitments:
Majority PAC $807,500
That’s public record information available to the campaigns, media, etc.
Somehow, when Republicans spend a lot of money to pick up a Senate seat, they’re desperate. But when Democrats spend a lot of money to defend a seat they hold, that’s not desperate.
Up is down. Black is white.