Did Internal Polling Make Berg Overconfident?

Rick Berg, Tracy Berg

Last night Roll Call reporter Shira Toeplitz posted on Twitter that, according to two of her sources, Rep. Rick Berg had internal polling showing him with a six point lead heading into election day. Her sources also claim that he ended the race with plenty of money still in the bank (something soon to be verified with FEC reports).


So who did the polling? I’m pretty sure it was Public Opinion Strategies which lists Berg as a client on their website. Also, according to the latest FEC data available online, Berg’s campaign gave $121,500 in payments to POS in January, April, June and July.

I’m sure further FEC disclosures will indicate more payments.

Whatever the polling, though, it seems ludicrous that Berg wouldn’t have emptied his campaign coffers to ensure victory on election day. Would it have made a difference? It’s hard to say, and hindsight is 20/20, but losing a close race with a significant amount of money in the bank sure makes it seem like you didn’t do everything you could to win.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • Dustin Gawrylow

    It comes down to GOTV as always, if there was a way to figure out who those 15,000 that voted for Cramer but not Berg were, it would explain what happened pretty well. How much worse would it have been for Berg had there been a 3rd option in the Senate race as a “None of the Above” – Olson got 10,000+ votes in the House race, it is conceivable that a 3rd option in the Senate race would have gotten two or three times that given how pissed off people were at the ads from both of them.

  • Guest

    Bad polls certainly made SAB overconfident.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Hindsight is 20/20.

      I spoke with people who worked for the Heitkamp campaign on election day who thought Berg was going to take it by at least five points.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I will cop to this, though. I seriously overestimated oil patch voter turn out. I expected the oil patch vote to change the dynamics of the electorate. In the past you couldn’t win a statewide race without winning, or at least effectively tying, in the Red River Valley. I thought the oil patch vote might change that, especially given how much money conservative interests were putting into turning out the oil patch vote.

      Turns out I was wrong.

      I still think the growth in the oil patch is going to have an effect on ND politics, and make it tougher for Democrats to win statewide races in the future, but that hasn’t happened yet in 2012.

      • Guest

        While oil patch workers should certainly be a prime demographic for Republicans and I expect a much more aggressive GOTV in future elections by Republicans, I wonder how many of them consider themselves connected enough to North Dakota to care about statewide elections versus just working at a temporary, well paid job before returning home.

  • spud

    Rick Berg was an arrogant man who got what he deserved. His sense of entitlement should be discussed for years. By the way Rob is it not fitting for public opinion strategies initials to be POS. Like David Axelrod claimed we will see who is bluffing come election day. Berg and Romney are the classic eliteist’s.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      “Sense of entitlement” is the wrong way to put it, I think. Overconfident is better.

      I don’t think Berg thought he was entitled to the Senate seat. I think he just underestimated Heitkamp, his own weakness in explaining himself and his policies and the willingness of North Dakotans to vote on personality.

  • Harold

    Berg wasn’t a good choice as a candidate just like Romney was in my view therefore they both got beat.

  • keen-wa

    Although North Dakota elections are generally well-watched, the deciding votes came from the Unionized areas of Fargo-Grand Forks, so I suspect some of the same sort of tampering as was seen across America: voter fraud.The only better candidate than Berg, who trounced Pomeroy, would be our AG. Berg needed a bright campaign staff.

  • VocalYokel

    Berg’s problem was that he believed his own publicity, hung out only with people who were already going to vote for him, and failed to press the flesh with folks who were undecided, much less those with opposing opinions.

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