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Poll: North Dakota Senate Seat Competitive

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Rick Berg is the likely Republican nominee for an open Senate seat in conservative North Dakota, but a new poll shows him trailing Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.

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A poll commissioned by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee offers the first evidence that the race for North Dakota’s open Senate seat could be competitive.

Former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) leads Rep. Rick Berg (R) 47 percent to 42 percent in the internal poll, including a 21-point lead among independents. Just 11 percent overall were undecided.

The Mellman Group conducted the poll of 600 likely voters from Nov. 12 to Wednesday, and it has a 4-point margin of error. The poll was taken in the week after Heitkamp announced her candidacy, which Democrats heralded as giving them a good opportunity to hold the seat of retiring Sen. Kent Conrad (D).

In a memo, the Mellman Group states that Heitkamp overcomes an 11-point GOP advantage in party ID thanks to her lead among independents. It indicates Berg’s current perch in the House is not helping him, as 56 percent hold a negative view of his job performance and only 34 percent say he represents their point of view on the issues or shares their values.

On favorability, 54 percent hold a favorable view of Heitkamp and 25 percent view her unfavorably. Berg’s ratings are 42 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable.

“With Heitkamp already ahead in the horserace and so much more highly regarded than Berg, she is in a very strong position to win the contest,” the memo concludes.

President Barack Obama will be no help to Heitkamp here. However, the polling memo recalls the 2000 elections, when Al Gore lost North Dakota by 28 points as Conrad won by 23 points. Of course, Conrad outspent his opponent that year by nearly 6-to-1.

Roll Call currently rates the race Likely Republican.

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