Yesterday Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem authorized the release to me of polling data which, frankly, had few surprises in it.
The polling, conducted by the Odney firm which surveyed 400 people with a margin of error of +/- 5 percent, shows Stenehjem with an overall favorability rating north of 80 percent. He has a 79 percent favorability in the eastern part of the state, and an 82 percent in the west. He’s popular with men (84 percent) and women (76 percent), and all age demographics (his lowest showing is 75 percent among the under-35 crowd).
Perhaps the only eyebrow-raising data point in the survey was that even strong majority of Democrats – more than 64 percent – view Stenehjem favorably.
To be sure, this is polling conducted by a Republican-aligned firm for a Republican candidate. “This poll is something we do every year on the top statewide offices,” Pat Finken, the president of Odney, told me.
So, you know, take the numbers with a grain of salt and all that. But really, does anyone have a hard time believing these number? Stenehjem, after all, has a long history of winning landslide elections. He was first elected in 2000 with 55 percent of the vote. Since then he’s been re-elected in 2004 (75 percent of the vote), 2006 (68 percent), 2010 (74 percent), and 2014 (74 percent). Before his success on the statewide ballot, Stenehjem had served in the state House from 1976 – 1980, and the state Senate from 1980 – 2000.
(Stenehjem had one two-year term when the state amended the constitution to elect the Governor and Attorney General on separate ballots.)
Yeah, I buy these numbers. In fact, I think everyone but paid partisan operatives and left-wing talk radio hosts would acknowledge that they’re accurate.
No wonder state Senator George Sinner, a Democrat from Fargo, was predicting that his party might not even nominate a candidate for governor this cycle. Republicans have other possibles in the governor race – including state Senator Tom Campbell, state Rep. Rick Becker, and Treasurer Kelly Schmidt – but with Stenehjem looming even as a possibility, who could blame them for not even bothering with the race?