Wednesday, September 15, 2010

North Dakota U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

North Dakota U.S. Senate

September 15, 2010
48 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2008 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Safe Republican

In the past election cycles, there has been one race, usually an open one, that appeared certain to change party hands. There may be at least a couple to choose from this year, but the far and away leader is definitely North Dakota.

Despite it's history of voting Republican for President and the GOP's dominance at the state level, the party has been stymied in sending anybody to Congress. No Republican has won an election to represent North Dakota on Capitol Hill in thirty years, as both of the state's Senators and it's one At Large House member have all been Democrats. A year ago, it seemed as if Democrat Senator Byron Dorgan, who was first sent to Congress by the state thirty years ago, would be the favorite to win another term, as it was taken for granted that prairie populism and bringing home the agricultural bacon would help the Democrats maintain a stranglehold.

For several cycles though, speculation has circled around what would happen if prominent Republicans were to run for the Senate against a Democrat incumbent. As the Democrat's national popularity began to take a nosedive in the latter half of last year, it looked as if Republican Governor John Hoeven, who had just been reelected in 2008, might be willing to challenge the Senator. Hoeven has remained perhaps the most popular Governor in the nation, with astronomical approval ratings in his state. The anticipation was that a Hoeven vs. Dorgan race might be an ultimate political "battle of the titans" in the Peace Garden State, with tons of national money flowing into what would maybe be a tossup to the end. Pundits perhaps noted that in previous states, where such matchups occurred, the voters opted to reelect the popular Senator and keep the popular Governor in their current job as well.

Nonetheless, polling data began to show that Hoeven would start off with a very large advantage over Dorgan. No other Republican seemed remotely as well-positioned, so the calls grew louder for Hoeven to jump into the race. If he lost, he would at least still be Governor. Before Hoeven made things official though, Dorgan sent a huge shock through the political world last December when he announced he would not even seek reelection. While Dorgan tried to explain that he believed he would win if he ran and that it was not the reason for his quitting, few took him at his word. It was perceived that the longtime Senator was just not wanting to face off against Hoeven and face a likely defeat. With Dorgan off the scene, the chances of any Republican picking up the seat increased tremendously, but Hoeven decided that he still had an interest in going to Washington, all other credible Democrats in the state stood down, and the race was basically over then and there.

To be fair, there is a Democrat candidate who is opposing Hoeven. He is State Senator Tracy Potter who like Hoeven, sports facial hair (allowing North Dakota to join Alaska in an all mustache/goatee vs. beard Senate showdown) but who has virtually no chance to stop an enormously popular Republican Governor, who will be leaving his job as the Top Dog in Bismarck early, to become a freshman U.S. Senator. Hoeven's financial advantage is humongous and he is already flirting with topping 70 percent of the vote in the polls.

For the first time since the Reagan Revolution, North Dakota Republicans will be celebrating a Congressional win, and may even defeat the Democrat House member as well.

Hoeven campaign link:

2010 U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 7 D, 19 R
Predicted U.S. Senate Balance of Power thus far: 47 D, 42 R

(the inevitable revisions in these predictions will not be posted until I get thru all the states)