New York Times: ND Senate Race “Leans Republican,” Democrat Polling Is Exaggerated


Nate Silver at the New York Times gives Republican Rick Berg’s chances of winning North Dakota’s Senate race a slight downgrade, from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican,” but according to his analysis the only thing Heitkamp really has going for her are those partisan polls commissioned from Democrat pollsters which he says “exaggerate” Heitkamp’s standing.

Silver gives Berg a 70% chance of winning.

The hardest Senate race to call may be in North Dakota, where Democrats have another tough defensive assignment after the retirement of Kent Conrad. Like in Nebraska, the partisan climate in the state leans toward Republicans. However, Democrats are somewhat more unified behind their candidate, Heidi Heitkamp, the former state attorney general. The only recent poll of the race showed Mrs. Heitkamp slightly ahead, but it was commissioned by the North Dakota Democratic Party and such partisan polls often exaggerate their candidate’s standing. For now, we classify the race as Lean Republican, rather than Likely Republican as before, but the race could revert to Likely Republican or move into the tossup category pending the release of nonpartisan polling. One measurable factor working in Republicans’ favor is that their candidates have combined to raise more money than Mrs. Heitkamp has.

A lot is going to ride on the independent polling in this race. And there will be some polling available later tonight. Forum Communications is set to release polling on the Berg/Heitkamp race, but it’s worth noting two things about the way the Forum is polling.

A) It’s not a unified Republican field yet. Duane Sand is challenging Rick Berg for the NDGOP’s nomination, and while Sand is a bit of a joke candidate, as long as he’s in the race he’s capable of shaving a few points off of Berg’s total.


B) The Berg/Heitkamp results will no doubt be pulled from the same sample the Forum used for Measures 2 and 4 earlier this week. That’s a simple that isn’t including undecideds, which really skews the outcome.

But no matter how you slice it, some bad independent poll numbers for Berg could really break this race wide open for Heitkamp.

Rob Port is the editor of 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.

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  • Ndconservative2011

    I don’t think any one should believe for a moment the polls that the Fargo Forum run.  Biased questions are the norm.  Push-Pull polls are the tools of the left, and the Forum is so far to the left that there is no room left of left.

  • Guest1

    This Nate person needs to come out to North Dakota and walk the streets and the country roads and listen to the voters of North Dakota.

  • ec99

    Forum Communications have ignored all the sins of the Dems for years.  They have habitually fawned on Pomeroy-Dorgan-Conrad, ignoring that they haven’t lived in ND for decades.  Their circulation reflects that they are no longer a participant in anything.

    • Dave

       So why are they still significant enough to matter so much on forums like this? If they are such a non-factor or non-player, why are we habitually bitching about them on here? Kinda counterintuitive logic isn’t it? Just wondering if you can reconcile the competing logic you’ve put into play.

      • ec99

        Beacuse they control the print media.  A healthy rejoinder to their propaganda is never amiss.

      • Not Rob

        Because Rob Needs to feed his family and if he badmouths people, the Fargo Forum and other things he will get hits.

      • Rob

        They matter because they’re on the ballot.  Voters could make that choice.

        But you’ll note that here on SAB, Republicans get it about as often as Democrats to.

  • borborygmi

    “Leans Republican” now there is an understatement.  North Dakota voters lean republican like a good North Dakotan leaning into a 60mph Breeze, a few degrees short of horizontal.

  • Jay

    Scott Rasmussen should poll this race. I have no idea why he hasn’t.

    • Rob

      He will. Rasmussen polled extensively last cycle.

      • headward

        The Forum will then disregard the accurate polling numbers that comes out of that poll.  Didn’t Rasmussen last poll before the election last year had Berg +10 on Pomeroy?

      • DFM

        I think it is very unlikely you’ll see a poll from House of Ras; since  Rasmussen uses robopoll technology, which is illegal in the state of North Dakota.  The same applies to PPP.

        • Rob

          Rasmussen polled extensively in the 2010 cycle, and his polling was ultimately the most accurate in terms of what the outcome was.

          • realitybasedbob

            Nate Silver at the New York Times gives Republican pollster Rasmussen a thumbs down.

            November 4, 2010, 10:41 pm

            Rasmussen Polls Were Biased and Inaccurate; Quinnipiac, SurveyUSA Performed Strongly
            The 105 polls released in Senate and gubernatorial races by Rasmussen Reports and its subsidiary, Pulse Opinion Research, missed the final margin between the candidates by 5.8 points, a considerably higher figure than that achieved by most other pollsters. Some 13 of its polls missed by 10 or more points, including one in the Hawaii Senate race that missed the final margin between the candidates by 40 points, the largest error ever recorded in a general election in FiveThirtyEight’s database, which includes all polls conducted since 1998.

            Moreover, Rasmussen’s polls were quite biased, overestimating the standing of the Republican candidate by
            almost 4 points on average. In just 12 cases, Rasmussen’s polls overestimated the margin for the Democrat by 3 or more points. But it did so for the Republican candidate in 55 cases — that is, in more than half of the polls that it issued.

            If one focused solely on the final poll issued by Rasmussen Reports or Pulse Opinion Research in each state — rather than including all polls within the three-week interval — it would not have made much difference. Nor did it make much difference whether the polls were branded as Rasmussen Reports surveys, or instead, were commissioned for Fox News by its subsidiary Pulse Opinion Research. (Both sets of surveys used an essentially identical methodology.) Polls branded as Rasmussen Reports missed by an average of 5.9 points and had a 3.9 point bias. The polls it commissioned on behalf of Fox News had a 5.1 point error, and a 3.6 point bias.

            Rasmussen’s polls have come under heavy criticism throughout this election cycle, including from FiveThirtyEight. We have critiqued the firm for its cavalier attitude toward polling convention. Rasmussen, for instance, generally conducts all of its interviews during a single, 4-hour window; speaks with the first person it reaches on the phone rather than using a random selection process; does not call cellphones;
            does not call back respondents whom it misses initially; and uses a computer script rather than live interviewers to conduct its surveys. These are cost-saving measures which contribute to very low response rates and may lead to biased samples.

            …Rasmussen’s polls — after a poor debut in 2000 in which they picked the wrong winner in 7 key states in that year’s
            Presidential race — nevertheless had performed quite strongly in in 2004 and 2006. And they were about average in 2008. But their polls were poor this year.

            The discrepancies between Rasmussen Reports polls and those issued by other companies were apparent from virtually the first day that Barack Obama took office. Rasmussen showed Barack Obama’s disapproval rating at 36 percent, for instance, just a week after his inauguration, at a point when no other pollster had that figure higher than 20 percent.

            …The table below presents results for the eight companies in
            FiveThirtyEight’s database that released at least 10 polls of
            gubernatorial and Senate contests into the public domain in the final three weeks of the campaign, and which were active in at least two states.


          • DFM

             Really? If I recall, the House of Ras had Senator Reid losing by 5%pts or so, when the actual results was something in the neighborhood of 6%pt in Reid’s favor. He also called Colorado WRONG.  Granted, it is tough to be spot on everywhere.

          • Rob

            Well, he got North Dakota spot-on.  Pomeroy was releasing Democrat polling up to the last showing him with the lead, but the last Rasmussen poll had Berg up 10.  And that’s what happened.

  • Kevin Flanagan

    ND is just “fly over country” in the minds of the media elite.

  • John_Wayne_American

    Synopsis of 3 ads.. (ok: I made Ricks up…)

    I’m Duane Sand, I’m running for US Senate, not ND Senate, but THE US Senate, and I want to lower your ND Income taxes,… ? Huh?

    I’m Heidi Hietkamp, and I’m a tough North Dakotan who wears gloves and a coat in an ad that runs on a day that could reach 95 in some parts of ND.  Yep I know what real ND tough is…

    I’m RIck Berg, I started a small commercial property company right out of college with a few friends, now I’m worth 20 Million dollars and Obummer, Pelosi and Reed want to tax the hell out of it…

    • Guest

      I think the Sand income tax thing and Rob can correct me is based on the fact that he can’t come out in public about Measure 2.  The whole NDTA stance on that makes it complicated.  So he can still try to lasso the M2 folks by bringing up the state income tax.  Poor strategy.  It’s confusing.  The commercials are poor and the message is scrambled. 

      • Rob

        Sand is playing to the primary.  Measure 2 is on the same ballot, and he’s hoping to get Measure 2 supporters to vote for him over Berg.