Last week I was fishing around the Republican gubernatorial campaigns seeing if they had any polling information they might want to release to me. North Dakota never has much in the way of public polling, but campaigns poll all the time. I was hoping to maybe get my hands on some internal polling which could be used to analyze the race.
But the campaigns all told me they hadn’t done any polling. Fargo businessman Doug Burgum, specifically, told me his campaign has “not done any polling since I announced” back in January.
It appears as though Burgum is polling now, though. A reader contacted me last night to say he got a call from a restricted number asking him questions about the gubernatorial race. This reader said it was the Burgum campaign contacting him. I got in touch with Nate Martindale, campaign manager for Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, and he told me again that they aren’t polling. I also spoke with state Rep. Rick Becker this morning who said the same for his campaign.
Burgum hasn’t yet responded to multiple calls.
My reader source told me he was asked his feelings about Paul Sorum (who may be on the June primary ballot as a Republican, something I reported last week), Burgum, and Stenehjem, but not Becker. That’s an interesting omission. Why would Burgum care about Sorum but not Becker? I have to think it means the Burgum campaign doesn’t think Becker has a chance to emerge from the NDGOP convention with the endorsement in April.
Sorum, on the other hand, could influence a tight race on the June ballot.
As a refresher for those of you lost in the intricacies of nomination politics in North Dakota, the political parties endorse candidates at their state conventions, but the actual nomination happens in June on a statewide ballot. Candidates need not have the convention endorsement, or even have attended the convention at all, to seek a party’s endorsement on the June ballot. That’s what Sorum is doing. Burgum, too, has said he’ll appear on the statewide ballot no matter the outcome of the NDGOP’s convention.
Becker is on the record saying he will not advance to the June primary if he fails to get the convention endorsement. Sorum, if he’s on the primary ballot at all, will have skipped the convention. And Stenehjem, Burgum seems to be assuming, will be the winner at the convention.
That’s probably a pretty good bet – it’s no big secret that Stenehjem is the odds-on favorite – though the Burgum campaigns presumption surprised Becker when I spoke with him about it. “That’s not been the nature of my side discussions with Doug,” he told me.
Sounds like Burgum has maybe been cultivating Becker, which would be an interesting political maneuver. Maybe Burgum is hoping Becker supporters will line up for him against Stenehjem?
Anyway, according to my reader he was also asked, “would you prefer a governor who worked in the private sector with great successes or the status quo.” That’s obviously Burgum measuring the appeal of his private sector success.
Other questions dealt with how often he listens to talk radio host Scott Hennen (who has a show syndicated statewide), and also how often he reads this blog. “They asked if I read the SAB from Rob Port monthly, weekly or daily,” the reader said. “I said I read Rob twice a day.”
Anyway, Burgum is clearly gearing up for his primary race. I’m told he’s already been in Bismarck filming ad spots. Given that his personal fortune is his biggest weapon in a race where he lags the other candidates in terms of name recognition and political profile, we can probably what will likely be one of its most expensive and vigorously contested primary races in state history.
Ironically, we will likely see more money spent by candidates seeking the Republican party nomination than we do in the general election race where Democrats have yet to even announce a candidate.
If you get a polling call, drop me a line. Rarely are these polls useful for determining who is “winning” a race, but it is interesting to know what sort of questions the candidates feel are worth asking.
UPDATE: “Yes, the campaign is doing research across North Dakota to best understand people’s attitudes so we can best serve North Dakota,” Burgum campaign manager Kate Mind told me in an email. ‘Politicians too often do too much talking and not enough listening.”