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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> Senate -- North Dakota

ND Sen Poll: Hoeven Begins Race With Lead

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven's bid for the state's open Senate seat is off to a good start, as a new Daily Kos/Research2000 poll finds him leading three potential Democratic opponents -- Ed Schultz, Heidi Heitkamp, Jasper Schneider.

The person many political observers felt could give Hoeven his most difficult race, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), is instead running for re-election and leads two Republican challengers -- Kevin Cramer, Duane Sand. However, Pomeroy is polling below 50% against both, and the Democratic Party has just a 25% favorable rating in the state, while the GOP is at 39%.

Senate
Hoeven 56 - Schultz 32 - Und 12

Hoeven 55 - Heitkamp 34 - Und 11

Hoeven 56 - Schneider 32 - Und 12

House
Pomeroy 46 - Cramer 24 - Und 30

Pomeroy 47 - Sand 22 - Und 31

Sudden Chaos For Democrats In North Dakota

The sudden retirement announcement Tuesday by North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) set off a chain of events that has brought a rage of intrigue and GOP confidence in a state whose congressional delegation is currently dominated by Democrats.

Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy, the state's lone congressman, considered running in Dorgan's place but quickly announced Wednesday he would instead seek re-election. Meanwhile, a potential Republican challenger to Pomeroy has said he is now rethinking his earlier decision not to run. As for Dorgan's seat, popular Republican Gov. John Hoeven is expected to soon announce he is running.

At a press conference in Bismarck Wednesday, Pomeroy said he opted to seek re-election because he did not want the state saddled with two freshmen in Congress.

"We would have gone from a position where we hold powerful chairmanships by each of our Senators and senior status on Ways and Means Committee to a position where we would have a brand-spanking-new House member and a brand-spanking-new Senator," said Pomeroy.

However, many felt Pomeroy had the best chance to defeat Hoeven and keep Dorgan's seat in Democratic hands. Plus, his re-election to the House is no foregone conclusion, according to Eric Raile, a political scientist at North Dakota State University.

"I think that Pomeroy has enough to worry about with his House seat," Raile said when asked what Pomeroy's chances would have been against Hoeven. "There is a lot of talk in the state about dissatisfaction with healthcare reform and other Democratic-led initiatives. This could be trouble for Pomeroy in the upcoming election."

First elected in 1992, Pomeroy has won his last three elections with at least 60 percent of the vote, but in 2002 -- a strong year nationally for Republicans -- he won with just 52 percent. Running statewide, Pomeroy will again need to overcome the Republican leanings of the state and the anti-incumbent mood hanging over the 2010 midterms.

After turning down national party entreaties last year, Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer -- who challenged Pomeroy in 1996 and 1998 -- has now told state party operatives that he will make his decision on running in "the next day or so." Also, in an interview with Politico, Cramer said it was Dorgan's retirement announcement that caused him to rethink his decision.

Other potential Republican challengers to Pomeroy include Tax Commissioner Cory Fong and Rick Clayburgh, the former tax commissioner and current executive with the North Dakota Bankers Association.

"Pomeroy stands to face his toughest election in his political career, and we're confident it will be his last year in office," said Adam Jones, executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party.

While Democrats now hold all three of the state's slots in Congress, North Dakota may indeed find itself a year from now with two freshmen in Washington -- despite Pomeroy's desire to keep that from happening.

With Pomeroy out of the running for Senate, state and national Democrats have been feeling out MSNBC talk show host Ed Schultz, who is a former Fargo radio show host, and former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, who lost to Hoeven in the 2000 governor's race. Neither has yet to say whether they are interested.

"Pomeroy's House seat is not necessarily safe," said Raile. And as for the Dorgan's Senate seat, "Governor Hoeven is extremely popular in North Dakota. The Democrats are facing a difficult situation here. They likely need to find a popular and recognizable figure to be competitive."

Pomeroy Will Not Run For Senate

North Dakota Rep. Earl Pomeroy will not run for Senate, a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee source tells RealClearPolitics.

Pomeroy, the state's lone congressman, had been considered Democrats' strongest candidate to replace Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who announced his retirement yesterday. The long-held Democratic Senate seat now appears likely to flip parties, should Gov. John Hoeven (R) jump in the race as expected.

"I think Hoeven is the prohibitive favorite against anyone but Pomeroy," said Mark Jendrysik, a political scientist at the University of North Dakota. "Since I don't think Earl will run for Senate, it looks like the seat is John's for the taking."

Hoeven, governor since 2000, is extremely popular in the state. A recent poll found him with an 87 percent job approval rating. Pomeroy was first elected to Congress in 1992 and was won re-election with more than 60 percent of the vote in the last three elections.

MSNBC host Ed Schultz said this morning that the state Democratic Party chair contacted him about running, though he remains undecided.

Multiple messages left with Pomeroy's spokesperson were not returned.

Dorgan To Retire, Giving GOP Strong Pick-Up Opportunity

Surprising news late this afternoon: Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) announces that he will not seek re-election in 2010. From the release:

"For the past year, I have been making plans to seek another six-year Senate term in next year's election. Those plans included raising campaign funds and doing the organizing necessary to wage a successful campaign.

Even as I have done that, in recent months I began to wrestle with the question of whether making a commitment to serve in the Senate seven more years (next year plus a new six-year term) was the right thing to do.

I have been serving as an elected official in our state for many years. Beginning at age 26, I served ten years as State Tax Commissioner followed by thirty years in the U.S. Congress by the end of 2010. It has been a long and wonderful career made possible by the people of North Dakota. And I am forever grateful to them for the opportunity.

Although I still have a passion for public service and enjoy my work in the Senate, I have other interests and I have other things I would like to pursue outside of public life. I have written two books and have an invitation from a publisher to write two more books. I would like to do some teaching and would also like to work on energy policy in the private sector.

So, over this holiday season, I have come to the conclusion, with the support of my family, that I will not be seeking another term in the U.S. Senate in 2010. It is a hard decision to make after thirty years in the Congress, but I believe it is the right time for me to pursue these other interests."

We noted before the Christmas break that Dorgan was facing the prospect of a strong challenge from North Dakota's popular GOP governor, John Hoeven. Hoeven hadn't yet announced, and some had begun to doubt he would actually run. But Dorgan's announcement would have to give Hoeven a strong push toward the race.

For Democrats, a logical candidate would be the other member of the state's all-Democratic Congressional delegation, Rep. Earl Pomeroy. But Pomeroy making a run against Hoeven for the Senate seat would put two seats at risk.

The announcement means Dorgan is the first elected incumbent Democratic senator to bow out of a 2010 race (appointed Sens. Roland Burris and Ted Kaufman were not running). Six Republicans announced last year they would not run again, including Florida's Mel Martinez, who resigned early.

Dorgan may not be the last to opt out, with many eyeing Sen. Chris Dodd (D) as a retirement possibility. Democrats might prefer to see that happen, given his weak polling. But the Dorgan decision most certainly qualifies as unwelcome news given the increasingly bleak political climate for the party.

UPDATE: Here's NRSC communication director Brian Walsh's statement:

"North Dakota was always going to be a competitive seat for the Democrats to defend, and Senator Dorgan's retirement now provides us with another excellent pick-up opportunity for Republicans in 2010. This development is indicative of the difficult environment and slumping approval ratings that Democrats face as a result of their out of control tax-and-spend agenda in Washington, and we fully intend to capitalize on this opportunity by continuing to recruit strong candidates who can win these seats in November."

ND Sen Poll: Hoeven Could Beat Dorgan

Of all the recruiting successes Republicans have had, there might not be one bigger than if Gov. John Hoeven (R) would decide to challenge Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) in North Dakota. A new Rasmussen poll (500 LVs, 12/17, MoE +/- 4.5%) shows that the three-term governor easily could beat Dorgan if he runs.

General Election Matchups
Hoeven 58
Dorgan 36
Und 6

Dorgan 52
Sand 37
Und 8

Dorgan has a strong favorable rating, but Hoeven is immensely popular in the state; his third term as governor runs through 2012. Voters are roughly split on the best course for Hoeven -- 37 percent want him to stay governor, while 42 percent want him in the Senate.

Obama Job Approval: 41 / 58
Hoeven Job Approval: 87 / 11

Dorgan himself has a strong favorable rating, but in an anti-Democratic year could suffer as the party's health care plan is rather unpopular: only 30 percent favor the plan, while 64 oppose.

Favorable Ratings
Dorgan 61 / 36
Hoeven 82 / 15