North Dakota Democrats Shouldn’t Be Too Jubilant

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Nationally Democrats are focusing on President Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney. In North Dakota, they’re jubilant over Heidi Heitkamp’s apparent win over Rick Berg, a race which many observers (including myself, I’ll take my lumps) had all but called for Berg weeks ago.

But Democrats should keep this sobering fact in mind: Over the last two cycles they’ve lost two of the federal seats they held, and apparently just barely held on to a Senate seat that had been in Democrat hands since Quentin Burdick first won it from Republicans in 1960.

The Secretary of State has yet to certify the results – that should happen later this week – and as long as the outcome stays within a 2% margin Berg will need to decide whether or not he wants a recount. Yet, assuming the results hold up, Heitkamp won a very, very narrow victory after a campaign in which she had to move very far to the right to get traction.

Meanwhile, all the Republican incumbents held their offices by wide margins. Governor Jack Dalrymple was elected to his own term, after finishing former Governor John Hoeven’s term, by a wide margin. Kevin Cramer took over Berg’s seat, handily beating challenger Pam Gulleson. Republicans even picked up a statewide seat, electing Kirsten Baesler to the Department of Public Instruction, a seat long held by Democrat Wayne Sanstead.

In the legislature Democrats picked up two seats in the state Senate, but lost two seats in the House, an unsurprising outcome given redistricting and the fact that it was hard to fathom the Republican majority int he legislature getting much larger.

Put together, it shows a continuing trend toward Republicans in North Dakota. Even the Senate race can be considered part of that trend. The last time Democrats defended that seat Kent Conrad won re-election handily with 68% of the vote. This time around they held it (pending possible recount) by less than 1%.

One thing to keep in mind: Kevin Cramer had better start campaigning for re-election to his House seat now. In 2014 he’ll be at the top of the ballot by himself – no Senate race and no governor’s race – and if Heitkamp emerges the winner she’ll be a funnel for lots of national money into a race Democrats will definitely have in their sights.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. 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. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • NDSiouxFan

    So true, Rob. However for the Dems to mount a campaign against Cramer they will need two things: Lots of money and a credible candidate. For ND Democrats, the money will be the easy part. With no bench of candidates, that part will be tough.

    • Disheartened

      hey, Potter, can make yet another run… The Duane Sand on the Dem side,,,

  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    I’m quite shocked that Heidi pulled that off. Considering that Berg beat Pomeroy by that margin two years ago and the fact that the other statewide races went strong Republican she really did well.

    • RCND

      She may have won pending certification but she has nothing to be proud of in doing so. She ran a trashy campaign. Berg also lost (again pending certification) because he did not make the effort he needed to make, but her campaign was one for the smut books

      • Roy_Bean

        But on the bright side, because measure 5 lost, her buddy Dead Head Ed can come back and hunt with Joel and not have to worry when he shoots his dog.

        • $8194357

          OWS’er…Tru that…
          And Joel can quit fantasing about Mitts magic underware and
          concentrate on his other fetishes…

      • dakotacyr

        Bitter doesn’t look good on you!

        • RCND

          It may sound bitter but it is the truth. Someone needs to remind her she is supposed to be a lady

          • $8194357

            Truth is the “new hate speech”…
            Where ya been?

      • spud

        That still makes him a loser. How he handled defeat last night makes him real loser.

    • $8194357

      Doe eyes,skools,guns and tractors and such…
      Besides…she had a couple of out of state “billionairs” picking on her..
      Harry Reid and Soros never came to mind about Berg getting hammered as a Washington insider, huh..

  • Dakotacyr

    The democrats have every reason to be jubilant. They beat a sure thing. You touted every possible poll you could to show that she would lose by double figures and then by five. Every step of the way she was behind Berg in fundraising, in the polls and your incessant attacks and alleged illegal campaign activities was all for naught.

    You lost a big one, a really big one. Now the Dems have an anchor for rebuilding and she is in office for the next 6 years at least.

    A great day for North Dakota, they got a smart, capable new senator and Berg is done!

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I don’t disagree. You guys seem to have won a big victory in the Senate, and I was wrong in my call of the race. I underestimated the willingness of a large block of ND voters to put personality over policy, and I overestimated the impact of the oil boom.

      So it goes.

      But let’s not deny that there’s some context to that victory.

      • leuchtman

        There’s another context that you’re missing, Rob. Oil is very important in the western part of the state, and a sustained oil boom will be good for all of NoDak, but the eastern part of the state is still heavily ag based, and Berg neglected covering his ag flank by not breaking ranks on the ag bill. Look at the mass of blue on the eastern side of the state, and remember that you couldn’t listen to the radio without hearing an ad about how Berg hadn’t voted for a farm bill. If Cramer minds that lesson, he’ll hold the House seat through the 14 election, in part because the Dems have no bench.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          and Berg neglected covering his ag flank by not breaking ranks on the ag bill

          What more could he have done? He was one vote. He criticized the Republican leadership. He tried to bring a farm bill to the floor. That’s about all he could do.

          But the farm bill, and the idea that farmers can’t farm without it, continues to be an enduring and useful fiction for Democrats.

          • leuchtman

            I don’t necessarily disagree with you about what Berg could have done. All along the National GOP was acting like they had already won the seat, and did nothing to help Berg. Most of what they did do was ineffective or counter-productive.

            As for the farm bill and the idea that farmers can’t farm without it being an enduring and useful fiction? You’ve been around politics long enough to know that perception is reality. The perception is that things like crop insurance and flood insurance, which are both heavily subsidized by Washington provide invaluable assistance to the small operator. Price supports aren’t some sort of panacea, but playing in a world market where everyone else does it and not doing it would be suicide for ND farmers.

            Can I imagine a more efficient system that is more market driven and oriented? Absolutely. Would it be better for the average farmer? Probably not.

            Come on, Rob, get your mind around the idea that when it comes to political ideology where the rubber hits the road, most people are hypocrites. They don’t want tax dollars supporting other people, but when it comes to their subsidies, when their ox is being gored, they react negatively. If you pursue a more limited governmental role, and are consistent about it not making exceptions for your constituencies, you aren’t going to win a lot of elections. Not here, not anywhere.

          • borborygmi

            Its the old All those politicians are crooked except mine mentality.

      • dakotacyr

        See that’s where I think you are wrong. Yes, People know and like Heidi. no doubt about that. But she was also Tax commissioner for 8 years, she was attorney general for 8 years. So they know Heidi well from that. So i disagree that it was personality over policy. Heidi spoke policy at every stop. What you underestimated is that the eastern part of the state is turning blue. and Yes you overestimated the impact of the oil boom.

        Of course you want to add “context” to the victory, but in the end the people of ND trust Heidi Heitkamp and then don’t trust Rick Berg.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Heidi spoke policy at every stop.

          She spent a lot of time talking about how she doesn’t like Barack Obama’s policies (something I’m sure she’ll move away from now that she’s won).

          But in her ads? It was all “hate Berg.” Because he’s rich, etc., etc.

          And i guess that sort of thing is effective.

          • $8194357

            I as well thought N Dak wouldn’t buy the marxist class warfare

            anymore but have decided I was wrong…

            It still sells in prairie country as well as the city..

            On half of us anyway..

          • borborygmi

            Do you honestly think Heidi is going to stop the fracking or close the AIr Bases?

          • $8194357

            Her party platform and ideolgies say yes..
            Independent token maybe for a short time.

      • Old&InTheWay

        Could you maybe also admit that you misjudged when you stated that ND voters really don’t care about the farm bill?

  • NDSuperman

    I was discussing this with my wife and had a bit of a theory on the matter: It is as if the average North Dakotan who is not a member of the Republican party felt as though they should vote for at least one person on the ballot who was not a Republican…and settled on Heidi.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Maybe.

      It certainly had to be an arbitrary consideration like that. If you were voting on policy, and you voted for the other Republicans on the ballot, then logically you vote Berg.

      There was a big contingent of voters who weren’t voting logically.

      • NDSuperman

        Well…it’s what my Grandma did (poor eyesight and my mother helped with her ballot…which by-the-way, would have been very easy to “adjust” for a dishonest person). Was she alone? I doubt it.

      • borborygmi

        Yes the same people who voted most of the other Republicans by 60% are illogical. Name calling will always endear people to seeing things your misguided way.

    • Phil Gay

      Stop the excuses, Rick Berg ran a terrible campaign – “when you fail to prepare for an election you are preparing to fail an election!”

      • NDSuperman

        Excuses? You must be confusing me with some blinded rino.

        Let’s say you find a nail in a board. Is in an excuse to say a hammer hit the nail, or is it rather, you know, what actually happened.

    • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

      Well it’s not a terrible idea to have representation in Mordor, I mean Washington, from each party. That way you have a voice no matter what. For the voters that trusted that she was independent and for energy production it’s not a terrible decision. I could buy it but I think she was lying. I think she’s a big liberal. Time will tell.

      • NDSuperman

        I like the way you think.

        How long will it take for her to sell out the Shire? I would suggest she already has. Could I be surprised by her? Yeah, I guess it’s possible…but it’s not bloody likely.

  • Phil Gay

    The Democrats do not have to be good as their opponent the Liberal Republicans are terrible! People want these 5 core values; 1) true capitalism 2) the Constitution 3) Freedom of Religion 4) states rights 5) smaller efficient government – Federal, State, County, City. Why is this so hard to understand?

    • Eat This

      Freedom of Religion or Freedom of Christianity?

      • $8194357

        Freedom “from” Christianity for the last 100 years..
        Leftist version of kill it and grill it..

  • Eat This

    You were wrong or dishonest? Dishonest. Dishonest with yourself and in your reporting.

    That’s the problem with both parties. They both need to take an honest look at themselves, recognize the contradictions and move toward the middle.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      And if the race had swung the other way by a percentage point, if 2012 turnout were as high as 2008 turnout, would I have been “dishonest” then?

      • Eat This

        Yes. It’s unfortunate that in this new media world, bloggers have the ability to bring forth the truth, yet they are just as dishonest (if not more) as traditional media.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          I think it’s more unfortunate how many people conflate disagreement with dishonesty.

          • Eat This

            Withholding information, leaving out facts and reporting only one side is dishonest.

          • borborygmi

            That describes Rob alright. Look no further then the Suzuki thread. Quick bash the gov’t when a little and I mean very little digging provide the rest of the story. Rob is all about allowing only the “informed voter” the vote. He forgets if he is only getting one side of the story he is not informed and thus by his own definition shouldn’t vote.

      • $8194357

        Your a “conservitive” Rob…
        Dishonesty is bred right into you according to the left.

        • Eat This

          Liberals are dishonest, too. That’s what I meant by “both.”

          • $8194357

            Understood…

          • Old&InTheWay

            So at what point do both sides concern themselves less with saying anything and more with doing something???

          • $8194357

            Ask Hiedi…
            Conrad/Dorgan/Obama
            said she has what it takes to be in DC.
            They wouldn’t lie huh..
            As a matter of fact…
            Dorgan gave the camera his best doe eyes and “promised”.

            As a limited government
            Constitutionalist…
            The less they do the better off we are…
            We wouldn’t be in this mess if DC wouldn’t have usurpt
            powers not specified for them by Constitutional Law..
            Now?
            Its to communist..
            To large..
            And cost to much to run…
            The ideological enemies of freedom and liberty
            have taken over the country that stood for those things.

          • Old&InTheWay

            But, if I just “asked Hiedi” that kinda takes away from the asking of both sides, wouldn’t you think?

          • $8194357

            Both sides? Your joking right…
            In DC their is only one side…
            Two party system is for the masses to root for their favorite team…
            Go vikings…Go packers…
            In DC…They all brothers from different mothers…
            Same daddy tho..

          • borborygmi

            So the Constitution is a failure? The Founding Fathers were failures?

          • $8194357

            No..
            the Constitution was a succesful form “self governance” limited power governance corrupted by socialist elitist olagarchy over 100 years ago..
            But I’ve told you that before huh.
            The founders wrote it for a moral people who had it in them to govern themselves…corruption and cronism rules the day..

          • borborygmi

            absolutely.

        • borborygmi

          not dishonesty just following one side of the story and since it support s his view it must be right allows him to participate in the conservative circle jerk. A question for you 7.62. You can point out what you feel is wrong with the LIberals, You can point out what you feel is Right about the Conservatives. Can you point out what is wrong with the Conservatives policies, programs and ideology,dogma?

          • $8194357

            You sure don’t pay attention much..
            Dems are pure sugar poison..
            Rinos poison lite…
            DC is the same .
            repeublicans do not follow limited governement conservtism
            any more that the flaming gay communist party.

  • Mike Quinn

    Your credibility is has zero value. What kind of dolt which has seen first hand you wrongness would ever expect to see any rightness? Your predictions have no more meaning than a coin toss, and you call it prognostication and sell it to the dolts. The nice thing about the simple minded is they never get any smarter. You prove yourself wrong in the most dramatic way, and they act like kids at a magic show. Of course you cut the lady in half. You just have to love low information voters and their ability to filter out reality.

    • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

      “Your credibility is has (sic) zero value.”

      Rather like your English skills, Mighty Lame Quinn? Your projection is duly noted.

  • Phil Gay

    We can blame the ND Republican higher ups – will they be fired?

  • dfm

    Message to Jay … I guess my internal polling I was right, the race was within the Margin of Error … just like I said it would be. The victory does surprise me a little bit, if forced to pick, I thought Berg would narrowly pull it out .. glad to be wrong.

    My polling model was too high on the Rs split, one thing you never understood about my data (or would believe) … I weighted heavier on Rs than the model suggested (I had it R+14, data said it should be R+12). Cheers.

    • leuchtman

      So did I Dean. I used the same R+14 model that you did. As you saw yesterday, I also thought, if someone put a gun to my head that Berg was going to win.

      • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

        I’m still not convinced you’re actually polling anything.

        Who is your call center?

        • leuchtman

          I’ll offer you the same as everyone else who has asked. Contact me privately and we’ll discuss it.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Youmy email. Go ahead and send methe details.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      You do deserve credit. You got it more right than any other polling.

      • dfm

        I appreciate that … and I want to say you are right to hold internal polls to a higher standard (both sides); but often they are right, if you are serving your client correctly. To much inside baseball to explain.

        When you get down to it, I think one of the key problem for Berg was that he got labelled as the ‘negative campaigner’ … if you recall in one of the polls that was released, there was a wide margin on this question in HH’s favor. Karl Rove did not help Berg out on this front. And the fact the Berg was underwater for most of the race on his favorable rating was key too

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          That’s ironic given that Heitkamp got way more personal than Berg did. Tjat was her core strategy. Make people hate berg.

          But perception is reality.

          • $8194357

            And the lie the truth ,huh..

  • Patrick R. Pfeiffer

    Let’s see, Heidi a) made Berg sound worse than Vlad the Impaler and b) totally lied about her ideology and what she’d do in office.
    Campaign conservative; vote in lockstep with Harry Reid.
    I guess the Conrad/Dorgan/Pomeroy model can still work on naive ND voters. I thought we’d moved past that.

    • $8194357

      Doe eyes, tractors, schools, guns and such….
      After all…
      Rick Berg got his ya know….

    • Roy_Bean

      The sad part of it all is that in winning she got out from under the Obama Care that she thinks is so “amazing” for the rest of us.

    • noblindersonme

      We will never move past the point when the truth becomes secondary to the lies and political skullduggery you scribed to Mr Pfeiffer. grow up fool ! You got beat!!! REMEMBER ASSHAT THE CONRAD DORGAN POMEROY model you are bitching about showed us that when they ALL went to Grand Forks and Minot for the last round of base closing US NAIVE VOTERS knew that they fought as hard as anyone to fight to keep those bases here , as did Schaefer and all republicans. That was PROOF ASSHAT! I was there in attendence at the Grand Forks airbase as they all spoke so eloquently about the need to save those bases . and THEY SUCEEDED! Were you there asshat ? so when your model of republicanism LIED that Heidi would suddenly go ‘peacenik ‘ and go all gooshy and let those bases go to cobwebs , proved to many what jerks you guys are!

      and I can list other ‘models ‘ of democrats solidarity that North Dakotans are just hunky doary with , the farm bills and ag support they always gave us farmers . and there was the time , money , support they gave to the ongoing flood fight that has devastated the Devils Lake area where I live!

      Berg got his ass kicked in the very areas where the voters knew him best ! Fargo, where Berg served, and where he bragged about his business ‘ know how’ at Goldmark for so many years ! voted against him by 10 points !!

      Remember Pat , mr HYPOCRIT, complaining that Heidi won because she ‘ran a dirty campaign ‘ while you and the blog here, and Berg , ( all so propped up by OUT OF STATE DARK MONEY that far exceded Heidi’s war chest) ran a campign as a dirty as any in the history here, is the very pinnacle of hypocricy!

      remember Berg voted in lockstep with his bosses ! and I will bet the farm ( and since I am an actual farmer not a phony like you it is no idle boast) that Heidi will be far more independent!

      once again were you at the Save the Air Base rallies years ago !!! or were you too busy bitching !

  • Uh, What?

    I find it telling that Heidi had to run to the right to “prove” she was ‘an independent voice”

    Although, her record said otherwise, the people of ND believed her and the mud she flung at Berg. Bravo to her campaign on the fight. They won. It didn’t matter how they won but they won. For some, that doesn’t matter. It does for me.

    “It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my part, I should be inclined to think freedom
    less necessary in the great things than in the little ones, if it were possible to be secure of the one without the other.”
    ― Alexis de Tocqueville

  • $8194357

    I wonder if ND values will get Hidey to make em pass a budget now?

  • spud

    If anyone here should show a little humility it is you. All these endless Gallup and Rasputin polls showing your candiidate kicking butt, the state polls are so wrong, the outright bragging of polls showing Heidi down double digits in one and Rasputin showing her down 5. Your electoral prediction of the race showing how out of touch with reality your mindset was. I admit I thought she would lose but I never trashed her or him. He ran a lousy campaign I believe. He is an eliteist he believes he is entitled. Rick Berg give a good concession speech. Dem’s you won but don’t crow too much you deserve to enjoy this victory but soon you must govern. Karl Rove is the biggest loser last night his display on fox about Ohio results will be a classic for years.

  • Edgar

    Hi Rob,
    It’s time for the G.O.P. to distance itself from the extreme right and move to the center–or run the risk of becoming of becoming a political fossil. President Obama’s reelection represents a repudiation of the kind of divisive, hateful policies that have brought the GOP to defeat. Isn’t it time for you to make the transition to the future–or do you want to continue pushing the old ways of the past? Instead of complaining about President Obama, you should be supporting him. He’s sincere in his desire to work with Republicans to address the nation’s problems—but Republicans have refused to cooperate with him. As the first African-American president in our nation’s history, he is a symbol of the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans who are tired of the hate and bigotry that people now associate with the GOP.
    Liberal America is a place where everyone is welcomed–white, black, yellow, hispanic, gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian, Jew, Gentile, Muslim, and atheist. Liberals want an America that is dedicated to social and economic justice, where people are judged by the content of their characters–and not on the content of their pocketbooks. Americans have overwhelmingly rejected the GOP agenda. It’s time for you and the G.O.P. to get in step with the rest of the country and move on.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Yeah, yeah. We always hear tjat when Democrats win. Conservatism is over forever.

      Funny that liberals never apply that standard to themselves after a defeat.

    • JW -American

      To step away from the right just invites the far right an opportunity to step in. Look at Paul Sorum in the Gov Race, suppose he would have run for Senate spot instead? His 1% showing in a race as close as they are getting across the board, makes leaving any part of your base uncovered a very risky proposition.

      The fact that the Dems Participated in the Rep. Primary proves their strategy, they were hoping to cause a split party race and save themselves a pile of money on Pams run. It might have succeeded had Brian Kalk not honorably accepted the will of the voters and at least publicity announcing that he supported Kevin.

  • Bliss

    I think Rick Berg has Stan Stein and the leadership of the NDGOP to thank for his loss. Alot of conservative republicans walked away from the convention feeling insulted and disenfranchised. Many of the districts had crowds of people wanting to be involved were shunned and went away disillusioned. Until they open the tent to other republicans including conservatives we will not make the progress we need. Unfortunately the Old Guard may have to die off before that will happen and that may be too late.

    • disheartened

      And thanks to the swarms of RP supporters that tried to hijack the district and then the state convention, then whined to the press, and dropped out of the scene completely, we now have a liberal repersenting our state instead of a Moderate Republican. thanks for absfu%&king nothing.

  • OldConserv2011

    We’ve proved that we’re a schizophrenic state. On the one hand, we brag about our conservative spendthrift nature, while on the other, we vote to accept new sales taxes and new service taxes (911 fee) and we reject property tax reduction.

    We brag about our independent nature, but we vote to implement more nanny statism (tobacco ban).

    We brag about our balanced budget and our surplus, but we demand that our Washington delegates bring back $10 in pork for every $1 of taxes.

    We take pride in our booming agriculture, coal and oil industries, yet we vote in a Senator who we know full well will attack those industries (maybe not directly, but certainly indirectly through her support of her party leadership).

    So what will we do when we wake up and suddenly realize that those industries have been shut down, the cash has stopped flowing, our surplus has gone and our independence and pride has been replaced with dependence, taxes and dispair?

    • JW -American

      I think for most of us that is true, but it does come down in part to who’s getting fed, by the Fed, and in ND its Farmers, Students and Seniors, look at the returns map and you’ll see the DEMography. It was the Farm bill, student loans and Medicare / SS threats. That shit stuck as they tossed it at the wall over and over.

      Then toss in a bit of Class envy with RIchey Rick stories airplanes and Goldmark stirred up on a state wide radio that runs 3 hrs a day 5 days a week and a few afternoon shows tossed in (on the 2 largest listened to stations I might ad)? Tell me how you run against that?

      • borborygmi

        Why didn’t Cramer get beat , Why didn’t Dalrymple get beat? Rick got thumped because people including many Republicans don’t like him.

  • ndgirl

    Who was the writer who predicted Heidi only had a 13% chance of winning? It takes more than Democrats to elect a candidate if you predicted those statistics. People in ND vote for candidates, not R’s or D’s. Other states should consider this unique concept.

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