Politico is reporting, in their typically breathless style, that NDGOP executive director Anthony Reedy conceded in an email that Democrat Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign ads have been “much better” than Republican Rick Berg’s.
I was forwarded the email exchange in which Reedy made his comments earlier in the week but decided not to post on it as I didn’t think it was all that newsworthy. That Heitkamp has been doing a better job with her campaign than Berg seems self-evident. Which is exactly what she needs to do to win. Only out-of-state reports who are notoriously out of sync with North Dakota politics would think this is news.
Heitkamp has a lot of obstacles to overcome. Her national party has moved way to the left of the North Dakota electorate, and she’s been outspoken in support of both President Obama and Obamacare, perhaps the most visible representations of that leftward shift. She’s also has serious ethical issues in her relationship with former trial lawyer and current Obama-appointed federal judge Jack McConnell who showered political money on Heitkamp (his former law firm continues to in this election cycle) after she granted him a lucrative appointment to serve North Dakota in the state tobacco class action suits (the settlement of which still pays McConnell millions per year).
Heitkamp has sought to overcome these area where she needs to be defensive with a good offense. Since the first day of her campaign she has attacked Berg furiously while casting herself as an “independent.” Berg has not handled the attacks well. Where Heitkamp seems to be everywhere in the media, Berg it seems can rarely be reached.
With all of this happening in a vacuum of data about the race – there hasn’t been any reliable polling in more than a month – many Republicans are worried. I hear about it constantly.
To be honest, I don’t think Heitkamp is winning. I think she’s done a very good job of creating the perception that she has the edge in the race. But the problem is that if you allow that perception to persist, it becomes reality.
If Berg loses this race he has nobody to blame but himself. Heitkamp, though a skilled campaigner, is eminently beatable. It it still requires a level of effort that, so far, Berg seems unwilling to commit to.