Since North Dakota joined the union our state has cast its electoral ballots for Democrats just five times.
We went for Woodrow Wilson in 1912 and 1916, for FDR in 1932 and 1936, and for Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Today the Grand Forks Herald editorial board makes the case for 2016 being the sixth time in history a Democrat takes home North Dakota’s electoral votes. And they invoke my supposed influence as a data point. “Meanwhile, in North Dakota, any Republican presidential candidate who has alienated Rob Port…cannot take the state for granted,” Tom Dennis writes for the paper.
I’m flattered that the folks at the Herald think so highly of me, but among North Dakotans I think I’m very much in the minority on Trump. Allow me to make the case for the irrelevance of my opinion on Trump.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]I think pocketbook issues, for most North Dakotans, will likely trump dismay over Trump’s personality faults.[/mks_pullquote]
For one thing, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Doug Burgum has endorsed Trump. Burgum is currently engaged in a furious outsider campaign to shed the perception of him as a downtown Fargo liberal and convince our state’s Republicans to make him their nominee (which, almost by default, would also make him our next governor). I think Burgum embracing Trump is less about who he wants in the White House than a reflection of where he thinks the state’s electorate is at on the presidential race.
Burgum backs Trump because he thinks it will ingratiate him with voters. And since there probably isn’t anyone who has polled more North Dakotans in 2016 than the Burgum for Governor campaign, I’m inclined to think he’s probably right.
For another, let’s remember that the 2016 election won’t just be a referendum on Trump. It will be an election pitting Trump against another national candidate, either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, neither of whom are a Wilson, Roosevelt, or even post-Kennedy-assassination-Johnson level candidates.
Sure, Trump is braying thug spouting one cringe-worthy insult after another, but Sanders and Clinton would pursue national policies (including restrictions on fracking) harmful to North Dakota’s most important industries. I think pocketbook issues, for most North Dakotans, will likely trump dismay over Trump’s personality faults.
And finally, there’s the fact that North Dakotans have been polled by a reputable pollster and found to support Trump, even back when there were plenty of other choices in the Republican field. Here’s what DFM Research found when they asked Republican presidential candidate back in late February:
That was a commanding lead in a fractured field back in February. Now with Trump as the nominee – as I write this news is breaking that Trump has passed the 1,237 delegate threshold for securing the nomination – I suspect his support among North Dakotans is much more solid.
Certainly more solid than anything Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton could hope to inspire in the state.
I stand by everything I’ve written about Trump. As a matter of personal preference, I will not be voting for him. I’ll probably cast a half-hearted ballot for some third-party candidate.
But I also recognize that most of North Dakota’s voters will probably be more pragmatic than I am with their votes, and will cast them for the candidate in North Dakota’s best interest. And by any objective policy measure, on the balance that’s likely Trump.