Incumbent Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan may have a serious problem on his hands if Republicans recruit Gov. John Hoeven to run for the U.S. Senate in North Dakota next year.
The first Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 telephone survey of likely voters in North Dakota finds the popular Republican governor leading Dorgan by 22 points – 58 percent to 36 percent. Just six percent (6 percent) are undecided in that senatorial contest.
Part of the challenge for Dorgan is the healthcare legislation working its way through Congress. Dorgan, along with every Democrat in the Senate, has voted to move the legislation forward and is expected to vote for final approval of the reform later this week. That’s not likely to be well received in North Dakota where just 30 percent favor the proposed healthcare reform plan and 64 percent are opposed.
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Opposition to the healthcare plan is higher in North Dakota than it is nationally.
Eighty-four percent (84 percent) of those who strongly favor the plan support Dorgan. Eighty-six percent (86 percent) of those who strongly oppose it back Hoeven.
Dorgan is likely to have a much easier time of it if Hoeven declines to enter the race.
Duane Sand, who has already announced for the race, trails Dorgan handily – 52 percent to 37 percent. Sand, a Naval Academy graduate and Navy veteran, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and for the House in 2004.
Voters are divided over whether Hoeven should challenge Dorgan. Thirty-seven percent (37 percent) say it’s better for the state if Hoeven stays as governor, but 42 percent would prefer it if he represented North Dakota in the U.S. Senate. Twenty-one percent (21 percent) aren’t sure which is best.
Hoeven, who has been governor since December 2000, carries the male vote by nearly two-to-one and wins female voters by 15 points. Voters not affiliated with either major party prefer Hoeven by a 63 percent to 28 percent margin.
Dorgan and Sand divide male voters, while women prefer Dorgan in that contest by 24 points. The Democrat, who has been in the Senate for 18 years, wins unaffiliateds 48 percent to 35 percent.
Sand benefits from the healthcare concerns but not nearly as much as Hoeven. While 86 percent of those who strongly favor the healthcare plan support Dorgan in his match-up with Sand, 66 percent of those who strongly oppose the plan back the Republican.
Thirty-one percent (31 percent) of North Dakota voters have a very favorable view of Dorgan, while 13 percent view him very unfavorably.
Hoeven is seen very favorably by 53 percent and very unfavorably by only five percent (5 percent). Six percent (6 percent) have a very favorable opinion of Sand, and 11 percent view him very unfavorably.
At this point in a campaign, Rasmussen Reports considers the number of people with strong opinions more significant than the total favorable/unfavorable numbers.
Eighty-seven percent (87 percent) approve of Hoeven’s job performance as governor, including 55 percent who strongly approve. Only 11 percent disapprove, with three percent (3 percent0 who strongly disapprove.
Along with Hoeven’s popularity in the state, Dorgan has to contend with President Obama’s unpopularity. John McCain carried North Dakota over Obama 53 percent to 45 percent, and now just 41 percent approve of how the president is doing his job. Fifty-eight percent (58 percent) disapprove. Those numbers include 18 percent who strongly approve of Obama’s job performance and 41 percent who strongly disapprove, considerably worse than the president’s overall job approval ratings nationally in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.
Thirty-three percent (33 percent) of North Dakota voters rate the president’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan as good or excellent. Thirty-one percent (31 percent) say he is doing a poor job.
Fifty-one percent (51 percent) support the president’s plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, while 28 percent are opposed. Voters are more closely divided over the president’s decision to begin withdrawing troops within 18 months: 41 percent like the idea, but 45 percent don’t.
Like voters nationally, those in North Dakota are also evenly divided over Obama’s overall strategy for Afghanistan, with 32 percent in favor of it and 34 percent opposed.