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PORT: Whiffs of desperation come from Heitkamp campaign

By Staff | Apr 20, 2018

It’s mid-April, and the general election is still months away, so I realize invoking a word like “desperate” to describe any political campaign is a bit of a stretch.

Still, there is a stink of desperation coming from the left side of North Dakota politics these days, emanating in particular from the campaign to re-elect incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Political campaigns always tend to be vitriolic, but the level of bile coming from our Democratic friends this early in the election year is something to behold.

Just this week, for instance, Democrats pounced on Congressman Kevin Cramer for using Facebook during a five-hour committee hearing featuring Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of, uh, Facebook.

There are a lot of times when it wouldn’t be appropriate for a member of Congress to be on Facebook, but perhaps a lengthy committee hearing on the subject of Facebook isn’t one of them.

Our liberal friends are getting an early jump on the silly season. This observer wonders why.

Perhaps recent polling numbers have something to do with it.

North Dakota, unfortunately, typically suffers a dearth of publicly available political polling. Which is unfortunate. Polling is most valuable when it consists of multiple surveys conducted using consistent methodologies on a consistent interval.

Usually what we get are one-off polls commissioned by media outlets or the campaigns themselves.

Morning Consult, however, has been polling approval numbers for the nation’s senators and governors (House members, unfortunately, aren’t included) and releasing their results on a quarterly basis.

According to that data, Heitkamp may be in a lot of trouble.

Not only did the senator see a nine-point drop in her net approval rating in the first quarter of 2018 – which comes on top of an 11-point drop in the fourth quarter of 2017 – but the number of North Dakotans saying they approve of her job performance is now under 50 percent.

The most recent Morning Consult results – based on surveys conducted online from Jan. 1 through March 31 – show 47 percent of North Dakotans approving of Heitkamp and 39 percent disapproving. North Dakota’s other senator, Republican John Hoeven, has 57 percent approval and 26 percent disapproval.

For Heitkamp, it’s been an ugly trend over the last four quarters of this poll. Back in July 2017 she was at 60 percent approval 28 percent disapproval. Since then, her approval number has fallen a whopping 13 points, while her disapproval number has climbed 11.

Which brings us back to the increasingly baleful tack Heitkamp and her political allies have taken. They seem to hope they can shift the political winds in their favor by savaging Heitkamp’s opponent.

Will it work? We’ll know by November.

In the meantime, here’s a fun fact. The 2018 election will be the first time in Heitkamp’s career, dating back to her time as state tax commissioner, that she’s had to defend a legislative voting record.

Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort

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