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2010 Senate elections: The case of North Dakota

2010 Senate election: North Dakota
By Eric Black

Welcome back, fellow seekers of wisdom and truth,

We’re officially into 2010 now, the year of (in addition to Minnesota’s epochal gubernatorial election) a crucial midterm election for all U.S. House seats a third of the U.S. Senate. I’ll get to work on an overview, but wanted to put on your radar screens the possibility of a Senate seat in play in neighboring North Dakota.

Soon after I left on winter break, Rasmussen Reports published a poll that showed that (if the election were held today etc.) Republican Gov. John Hoeven would crush Dem. incumbent Sen. Byron Dorgan by a truly impressive 58-36 percent.

Hoeven, however, has not committed to run for the seat. If he did, I sincerely doubt he would win by 20 points. Dorgan is more popular than that poll makes him look, is sitting on $4 million in his campaign warchest (very serious money in a small-population state like NoDak) and has won his three previous Senate races by 20 percentage points or more. Rasmussen, a prolific robo-poller, is not rated the most reliable of pollsters and has recently come under increasing allegations of a Republican bias (on which I take no position). But Hoeven is a very popular governor and — despite its long habit of electing fiscally conservative Dems to Congress — North Dakota is a red state that went for McCain by nine points and has given it’s electoral votes to a Democrat exactly once since 1937!).

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Jim Geraghty of the National Review (where the hope for a Hoeven candidacy is palpable) writes today about why Hoeven hasn’t decided (he’s got universal name recognition and since he’s the only Republican who would have a strong chance against Dorgan he isn’t worried about the nomination).

The NoDak situation highlights what the professionals know about the midterms, that candidate recruitment is huge. No duh.