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.