Anyone who has observed Rep. Rick Berg campaign over the years, during both his House campaign and now his campaign for the Senate, has heard him repeat the phrase “North Dakota Way” over and over again. It’s a mantra for him. It’s his go-to phrase for just about everything.
During the NDGOP state convention earlier this year a member of Berg’s campaign was positively giddy about the phrase. “He’ll just keep saying it over and over again,” this staffer told me again. “Heidi Heitkamp wises she could use it.”
Well, Heitkamp just stole some of the catch phrase’s effectiveness, at least online. Those searching for the “North Dakota Way” are now just as likely to end up on this Heitkamp campaign fundraising page as on one of the many articles in which Berg uses the phrase.
A lot of Heitkamp’s campaign gambits to date have been pretty tone deaf. The Rick Berg “attacks on women” stuff isn’t going to get much traction, I think. But this? This hits pretty hard, because I’ve heard a lot of political observers express some nausea about Berg’s repeated use of the phrase “North Dakota way” over and over again.
This is going to resonate.
Berg’s big problem is that he’s aloof. He has a hard time connecting with voters. He is not a good public speaker, and in interviews and public events he’s not quick on his feet when challenged. As a policy maker he’s smart and engaged. As a politician, he comes off sometimes as evasive. The “North Dakota way” mantra is a part of that, and Heitkamp is clearly zeroed in on it.
Let’s hope Berg can counter effectively, because this race is going to hinge on that.
Update: Headline shamelessly stolen from this tweet.