It’s clear that Republican Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger’s admitted addiction to alcohol and month away from the campaign trail to seek treatment has hurt him in the eyes of the public. Forum Communications/University of North Dakota polling shows him at 34 percent.
But what hasn’t happened, it seems, is a shift in support to his opponent Democrat Jason Astrup who is polling at just 21 percent.
A whopping 41 percent of respondents remain undecided in this race.
I think UND Political Science Professor Robert Wood sums up what’s going on nicely here:
“There are more undecided than were present in the other races because it’s related directly to the personal challenges of the incumbent — of Rauschenberger — that his personal struggles, personal challenges and personal life have pushed a lot of people that would have normally been solidly in the Republican camp into the undecideds,” Wood said. “… If it was the challenger that had had their truck totaled and had run into these problems, it would have just been the end of their campaign.”
Wood goes on to give Rauschenberger credit for being forthright about his problems, and I think that’s accurate. As the guy who broke the story about Rauschenberger’s problems, I can tell you that when I asked the question he didn’t lie. He didn’t shy away. He confessed, and he sought help.
Obviously, a candidate seeking substance abuse treatment in the middle of a campaign is unusual. That’s why voters seem to be shying away so far. But this still seems to be Rauschenberger’s race to lose.
If he can continue to show voters that he’s back on the job, and that he’s got his personal issues under control, it’s hard to see how Astrup can win.
Which is just remarkable, isn’t it? That Democrats can’t even get traction in a race against a guy who spent a month in rehab during the campaign?