For ND Swing Voters, Personality Seems To Matter More Than Issues
For a significant chunk of the North Dakota electorate, personality must matter more than issues. How else to explain the Mason-Dixon poll out yesterday which showed Senate candidates Rick Berg and Heidi Heitkamp tied?
That poll has each candidate coming in with 47% support. Yet, in that very same poll, Republican House candidate is leading Democrat Pam Gulleson by a very wide 12 point margin.
Both the House and Senate results were based on the same polling sample, so what gives? How is one Republican candidate winning by a country mile, while the other is tied with his Democrat opponent?
It can’t be the issues. Cramer and Berg align on most issues, and where they differ Cramer is usually to the right of Berg. Cramer is running what is undoubtedly the most conservative campaign in the state, but Berg isn’t that far behind, so it’s hard to explain the differential in support by looking at positions on the issues.
But if we look at the candidates’ personas, their personalities, we begin to see things line up. Cramer, like Heitkamp, is a jovial campaigner. He is in his element while debating or being peppered with questions from voters.
In contrast Berg, like Gulleson, often seems uncomfortable on the campaign trail. He can seem cool and distant at times, very aloof, and clearly that’s having an impact with the voters. Berg gets some credit for aligning better with North Dakota voters on the issues (note that Heitkamp has tried her best to distance herself from her Democrat party label and emulate Republicans), but for a significant chunk of this poll’s sample (a large enough chunk so that Cramer’s 12-point lead doesn’t translate to his race) Berg’s personality and campaign style seems to matter more.
There is simply no other explanation for the gap between Cramer and Berg’s results. A lot of voters just seem to be picking the candidate they like more.
That’s not a good thing. This isn’t supposed to be a popularity contest. This is supposed to be about who will make the best decisions for our state and country. But clearly personality matters more than issues to many voters.
That being said, I think the Mason-Dixon poll is skewed for Democrats. It was an outlier earlier this summer, showing Heitkamp with a 1 point lead while two other polls from Forum Communications and Rasmussen showed Berg with a 9 and 7 point lead respectively, and I think it’s an outlier now. My guess is that Berg likely has something like a 5 point lead, and that Cramer is probably beating Gulleson by nearly 20 points.
But Heitkamp’s personality advantage is making this race closer than it should be.Tags: election 2012, Heidi Heitkamp, Kevin Cramer, North Dakota News, pam gulleson, Rick Berg