Is The Berg/Heitkamp Race Actually Competitive, Or Is The Media Just Looking For A Horse Race?
Last night some political friends and I were having dinner and discussing how awful national media coverage of North Dakota politics is. Specifically North Dakota’s Senate race. With odds for Democrats picking up Senate seats fading in other states, a lot of attention has turned to North Dakota where liberal candidate Heidi Heitkamp has done a good job of manufacturing a narrative about being competitive.
She started early on by releasing partisan polling, conducted by Democrat pollsters using Democrat-provided voter samples, suggesting she was leading in the race and she hasn’t relented. Just last week she released another such poll showing her with a 6 point lead over Republican Rick Berg.
Should the poll be taken seriously? Of course not. Does it get picked up and make headlines that further the narrative she wants? You betcha. It’s all about perception. In order to keep money flowing to her campaign, Heitkamp needs to be perceived as competitive.
But perception isn’t necessarily reality. Just like having a lot of yard signs doesn’t mean election day victory (just ask former House candidate Brian Kalk), having a lot of news stories about how competitive you are doesn’t mean you’re actually competitive.
What’s more, it’s clear the media wants North Dakota to be a horse race. Aside from the Presidential race, whether or not Democrats hold the Senate is the biggest political story of the cycle. As I already pointed out, Democrat chances are fading in other states, which corresponds with North Dakota’s Senate race moving up competitive rankings such as this one put together by Politico’s Dave Catanese (who, as a former North Dakota reporter, should have a better grasp on what’s actually happening here).
According to Catanese, Heitkamp is competitive because there’s “a palpable sense” (among 100% of the Democrats Catanese talked to, no doubt) that she’s competitive. Never mind the most recent independent polling from Rasmussen which showed her losing by 9 points. Never mind the earlier (though admittedly more suspect) polling from Forum Communications which showed Berg up 7 points. The Democrat-manufactured narrative is that this is a competitive race, and reporters like Catanese are eating it up, because the want competitive races to cover.
Is Heitkamp overperforming? Absolutely. It’s a testament to her skill as a politician that she’s doing as well as she is. Will she overcome her marked shift to the left, and her awkward efforts to move away from her past support for Obamacare and President Obama himself, in time for an election day victory?
The Democrats and their doctored polling say yes. More objective observers won’t be betting on it.
Meanwhile, the latest breaking news in North Dakota’s senate race from the Huffington Post is the fact that Berg’s latest ad got some negative comments on YouTube. Because people posting strong opinions on political topics in online commenting forums is news or something.Tags: Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota News, Rick Berg