Not so long ago Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell’s campaign released polling showing the challenger ahead of incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
There was much scoffing about the poll, as perhaps there should be for any survey conducted and released by a political campaign, but now new numbers from Morning Consult indicate there may be something to the Campbell numbers.
Earlier this summer Morning Consult measured Heitkamp’s popularity among North Dakotans at 60 percent, with just 28 percent disapproval. That was good enough to make Heitkamp the 11th most popular member of the U.S. Senate.
But now that same poll shows Heitkamp’s popularity has fallen. Her approval rating is down to 55 percent, and her disapproval is up to 32 percent.
Heitkamp is still above water, but the news isn’t good for the incumbent who is widely seen as vulnerable heading into the 2018 election. “Despite their standing overall, Heitkamp and [West Virginia Senator Joe] Manchin saw a 9-percentage point slide in their net approval – the difference in their approval and disapproval percentages – since the second quarter, the biggest drop in the Senate,” Morning Consult reports.
Heitkamp is still the 15th most popular member of the Senate. Her North Dakota colleague, Senator John Hoeven, is the 3rd most popular with a 63 percent approval rating and just 20 percent disapproving of his job performance.
Why has Heitkamp’s approval dropped off while her disapproval number has climbed?
One factor is probably that the 2018 campaigning has begun. Both Campbell and the Republicans have begun running negative messaging about Heitkamp, and it’s undoubtedly having an impact.
I also wonder about Trump’s impact on the numbers. Heitkamp has – much to the chagrin of what’s left of the Democratic party in North Dakota – been one of the most cooperative Senators for the Trump administration. At least among Democrats, anyway. Yet Trump, who won the North Dakota vote in a landslide last year, has seen his popularity drop off too.
Earlier this month Morning Consult pinned Trump’s approval rating in North Dakota at 50.9 percent and his disapproval at a very high 43.9 percent. In January of this years those numbers were 55.8 percent and 33.1 percent, respectively.
For context, back in July a Gallup poll put Trump’s popularity in North Dakota at 59 percent, good for second highest among the states.
Are Heitkamp’s falling approval numbers a product of how closely she’s aligned herself with Trump whose popularity has taken something of a hit even here in North Dakota? Will these polling trends result in Heitkamp becoming less cooperative with Trump’s agenda?
Time will tell, though in the mean time it’s worth keeping in mind that both Trump and Heitkamp are still relatively popular in the state.