Karyn Bruggeman interviewed me for her profile of the North Dakota gubernatorial race in the National Journal today, and I come off sounding almost prescient given that Democrats lost their candidate in Sarah Vogel last night just as this article was published.
“It is sort of interesting when you’re looking at the three candidates, the ideological divide in North Dakota is within the Republican Party,” I told Bruggeman. “It’s not Republicans versus Democrats. It’s Republicans versus Republicans, and Democrats are almost irrelevant to the process.”
Democrats will no doubt chafe at being called irrelevant, but that certainly seems to be the truth at least as far as statewide races are concerned. As the local district conventions begin Republicans tout a full slate of candidates for statewide offices, with competition among multiple candidates in the auditor, gubernatorial, and superintendent races.
Meanwhile, Democrats had a candidate for governor in Sarah Vogel, but were left shocked last night when she bowed out of the race.
“I learned a lot about how modern campaigns are run, the expectations, the demands of money, the kind of schedule, and some of that was a learning experience for me and then I realized that I am in fact not a good fit for the demands of a modern campaign,” Vogel told the Forum News Service.
Now Democrats have zero statewide candidates. Some candidate may eventually get into the race, and Democrats will likely have other candidates for statewide office too, but it will be hard to describe those candidates as enthusiastic about running when they start their campaigns so late.
I think the lack of success Democrats have had in recruiting candidates and winning elections has a lot to do with how far to the left the party has moved in recent years.
I think Fargo businessman Doug Burgum’s campaign for the Republican nomination for governor is illustrative of that. In another time Burgum would likely be running as a moderate Democrat despite his family’s long association with the Republican party. But the Democrats are so far to the left, the place he’s most comfortable is within the GOP.
That’s a great thing for Republicans. They can truly say they have a big tent which encompasses a wide spectrum of perspectives.
For Democrats, though, it has to be depressing.