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Politics & Policy

Poll Puts GOP Challenger ahead of Democratic Senator Heitkamp in North Dakota

Senator Heidi Heitkamp speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill, June 21, 2016. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

A new poll out this morning in the U.S. Senate race in North Dakota puts Republican congressman Kevin Cramer up five points over incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.

According to the poll — conducted by the Tarrance group and backed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee — shows Cramer at 49 percent support and Heitkamp at 44 percent, with 7 percent of respondents undecided.

The poll also tracked the candidates’ favorability, putting Heitkamp at 54 percent and Cramer at 53 percent. In terms of net favorability, though, Cramer has a substantial advantage, with +24 compared to Heitkamp’s +16. (Net favorability is the gap between the percentage of those who view the candidate favorably and those who view them unfavorably.)

Just last week, Gravis released a poll in the race that gave Heitkamp a slight edge, putting her at 43 percent support and Cramer at 40 percent, with a much larger 17 percent undecided.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics Crystal Ball rates this race as a toss-up, and Heitkamp is widely thought to be one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, in large part because her state voted by a landslide for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Trump took a whopping 63 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 27.2 percent, defeating her by a margin of over 100,000 votes.

What already promised to be a tough re-election battle became even more difficult last month when Cramer decided to jump into the race for the Republicans, edging out lesser-known GOP figures who had been challenging Heitkamp. Cramer is an especially dangerous challenger in part because North Dakota elects just one U.S. representative to the House, so he has already run several successful statewide races.

In fact, in 2012 — when Heitkamp and Cramer were both first elected, he to the House and she to the Senate — Cramer received 12,000 more votes than Heitkamp did in her own race. He bested his Democratic challenger (also a non-incumbent) by more than ten percentage points, while Heitkamp merely eked out a one-percentage-point victory over GOP representative Rick Berg.

Along with the Senate contests in Indiana, Florida, and Missouri — also states that went to Trump in 2016 and that have vulnerable Democratic incumbents — the North Dakota race will a key one to watch in this year’s midterms.

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