Polling Shows Republicans Kevin Cramer, Doug Goehring Way Ahead Of Possible Democrat Challengers

A source has shown me some internal Republican polling on two of the races that will be on the ballot for North Dakotans this year.

First, some caveats. This is an internal poll conducted by a Republican source. Also, I wasn’t provided a lot of the details on the poll such as the demographic breakdowns, question wording, etc. So take it with a grain of salt. It is what it is. I share it with you, and you can decide for yourself how much stock to put in it.

The polling is also a little dated. I was told the polling was conducted a while ago, before USDA Rural Development Director Jasper Schneider and former Senate Minority Leader (and gubernatorial candidate last cycle) Ryan Taylor announced they wouldn’t be running (though an intraparty challenge to Doug Goehring seems to have Taylor reconsidering). It was also conducted before Libertarian Party candidate Jack Seaman entered the House race (though I’m told the polling accounts for a possible LP challenger).

Anyway, here’s what I was told. In a possible House matchup:

Kevin Cramer:  55%

Jasper Schneider: 25%

In a possible Ag Commission matchup:

Doug Goehring: 50%

Ryan Taylor: 33%

To provide some context, in 2012 Cramer got 54.87 percent of the vote against Democrat Pam Gulleson and Libertarian Eric Olsen. In 2010, the last time Goehring was on the ballot, he got 67.98 percent of the vote against Democrat Merle Boucher. Schneider has never been on the statewide ballot Schneider ran for Insurance Commissioner in 2008, and Taylor lost to Governor Jack Dalrymple in 2012 getting just 34.31 percent of the vote.

Again, this is an internal poll for Republicans, and I didn’t get a lot of specifics. But my source insisted that it was a fairly-conducted poll of the sort used by the part and candidates to prepare for the campaign. Make of it what you will.

If we assume the poll is an accurate reflection of public opinion in North Dakota at this point, it looks pretty good for Cramer. He’s now coasting into the end of February with no announced challenger from Demcorats as yet, and with a nicely-sized campaign warchest sitting at the ready to boot. Absent some scandal or controversy, it’s hard to imagine a Democrat challenger in a federal race getting the traction needed to upset Cramer at this late stage in the game. In the last cycle, Democrat candidates Pam Gulleson and Heidi Heitkamp were both in the race by early November. Gulleson lost to Cramer by a wide margin, and Heitkamp barely won against Rick Berg who, it is widely acknowledged, ran one of the worst campaigns in the history of the state.

The percentages show 80% picking one of the two candidates. That leaves about 20% undecided. Even if Schneider got every single voter in that 20%, he’d still lose to Cramer by 10 points assuming this polling is accurate.

Goehring is a more interesting situation, sitting at just 50% against just a potential challenger. I was surprised when Taylor initially said he wouldn’t run for the seat (or any seat, for that matter). Democrats have ramped up attacks on the State Industrial Commission for its handling of oil development in the state, and Goehring has a seat on the commission. Taylor seems like the strongest candidate Dems have for that seat, but maybe Democrats were doing polling of their own which scared him out of the race.

Now that Goehring has some mud on his shoes and a primary challenger (Judy Estenson from Devils Lake) courtesy of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, maybe the race is looking more palatable to Taylor. Though given that Taylor was on the statewide ballot last year, I’d have expected him to poll a little better than this.

I also wonder if Taylor has a complicating factor too. Last year Taylor accepted a $80,000 grant from the left-wing Bush Foundation to study Norwegian socialism.

The Bush Foundation is a non-profit, and it would be unseemly for them to have a Bush Foundation Fellow running for partisan political office after having accepted such a large dollar amount. You’d think he’d either have to give back his fellowship money, or wait until his fellowship has ended, to run.

The Ag Commissioner race numbers also show just what a gamble the North Dakota Farm Bureau is taking by backing Estenson against Goehring.

Update: This post originally stated that Jasper Schneider had never been on the statewide ballot before. He was, losing a close Insurance Commissioner race against Adam Hamm in 2008. I’d forgotten about that. The post has been corrected above.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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