In the 2012 cycle North Dakota Democrats lost ground. They broke even in the state legislature, but lost the only state-level executive branch office they held (Superintendent of Schools), and while Heidi Heitkamp made headlines by upsetting Republican Rick Berg in the Senate race, she still barely won.
The last time Senator Kent Conrad, the seat’s previous occupant, won re-election he got nearly 70% of the vote. Heitkamp beat Berg by less than 1%.
In 2014 things are looking even tougher for Democrats. First, they don’t have another Heidi Heitkamp on the bench. Second, most of the Republican incumbents in statewide office are running again, and the two new faces are already posting big fundraising numbers before challengers even enter the race. In the only federal race on the ballot this year, Rep. Kevin Cramer is a popular incumbent who has won a lot of good will with aggressive efforts to reach out to constituents, including a rigorous town hall meetings and an open-door policy for interviews, and it looks the long-delayed farm bill just got taken off the table as an issue (assuming the Senate votes in approval).
We’re nearly into February and North Dakota Democrats still haven’t found a challenger for Cramer – despite bold talk about challengers lining up to take him on months ago – and now news from the national level isn’t good.
Politico reports that Democrats may have to put everything they have into holding onto the Senate, leaving the Republican House majority relatively unchallenged:
With Democrats’ grasp on the Senate increasingly tenuous — and the House all but beyond reach — some top party donors and strategists are moving to do something in the midterm election as painful as it is coldblooded: Admit the House can’t be won and go all in to save the Senate.
Their calculation is uncomplicated. With only so much money to go around in an election year that is tilting the GOP’s way, Democrats need to concentrate resources on preserving the chamber they have now. Losing the Senate, they know, could doom whatever hopes Barack Obama has of salvaging the final years of his presidency.
The triage idea is taking hold in phone conversations among donors and in strategy sessions between party operatives. Even some of the people who have invested the most to get House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi back into the speaker’s chair are moving in that direction.
It seems unlikely that the triage efforts among Democrat House campaigns will find much of interest in a North Dakota House race that doesn’t have a candidate yet.