Over the weekend I wrote about what I feel is NDGOP gubernatorial candidate Wayne Stenehjem’s weak spot, which is a changing perception among voters of North Dakota’s economic success. In the past Republicans like Stenehjem have been able to lean heavily on the state’s strong economic performance to bolster their campaigns. But if a drip-drip-drip of headlines about falling revenues and budget shortfalls changes the public’s perception of the state’s performance they may be ready to vote for something different.
Even if they themselves aren’t necessarily in changed circumstances.
While thoroughly marginalized Democrats aren’t in a position to capitalize on those potentially changed attitudes (see this post), Stenehjem’s opponents in the NDGOP’s gubernatorial nomination race are. Particularly Doug Burgum, who tweeted this earlier today:
— Doug Burgum (@DougBurgum) February 8, 2016
Clearly, Burgum knows where Stenehjem is weak.
The link goes to this Washington Post article about a Federal Reserve report putting North Dakota at the top of a national lest of contracting economies (see the map above). After years of being one of the fastest-growing economies in the nation, being at the top of the list like this is a big change for the state.
“The price of a barrel of Brent crude has fallen from over $100 in mid-2015 to less than $35 today,” the Post reports. “That is weighing on the economies of North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Mississippi and Louisiana, which have extensive energy reserves and/or oil and gas refining facilities.”
It could also weigh on Stenehjem’s campaign chances.
Or maybe it won’t. Some of the doom and gloom in the national media doesn’t quite line up with what North Dakotans are actually experiencing from the oil downturn. The state, whether we’re talking about oil production or economic performance, is proving more resilient than some guessed.
While the budget situation is going to be a headache in coming years, many North Dakotans probably thought it was time to rein in years of aggressive spending increases anyway.
But certainly candidates like Stenehjem can’t just lean on the “best run state in the nation” stuff any more.