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Poll: Berg increases lead over Pomeroy in U.S. House race

State Rep. Rick Berg, R-Fargo, has increased his lead over Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., in North Dakota's U.S. House race, according to a new poll released Thursday.

Rick Berg
Rick Berg takes the stage with family and friends following his nomination to be the Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives at the ND GOP convention Saturday in Grand Forks. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

State Rep. Rick Berg, R-Fargo, has increased his lead over Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., in North Dakota's U.S. House race, according to a new poll released Thursday.

The Rasmussen Reports poll, which surveyed 500 likely North Dakota voters Tuesday and Wednesday says Berg is now leading Pomeroy 51 percent to 44 percent. Those results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

In a similar poll conducted Feb. 9-10 by Rasmussen Reports, Berg led Pomeroy 46 percent to 40 percent.

Berg said the latest poll is "good news" for his campaign, adding it shows his focus on jobs, small business growth and getting the country back on "the right track" is important to North Dakotans.

"The real key in the poll from my perspective is being over 50 percent," he said. "That's a real boost."

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In a written statement, Pomeroy spokesman Brenden Timpe said there will be "plenty of time" to run a campaign this year.

"Rick Berg has spent 26 years as a politician who favors big corporate interests over North Dakota families at every turn, and we're confident that, in the end, North Dakotans will choose Earl Pomeroy for his record as an independent voice who works across party lines to get things done," Timpe wrote.

Deciding

There isn't much of a change between the two polls on most accounts. Berg increased his lead over Pomeroy by only 1 percentage point.

But there is a noticeable difference when it comes to the number of undecided respondents. In February, 11 percent said they weren't sure who they would vote for -- that number dropped to 4 percent in the March poll.

And only 1 percent said they would vote for another candidate in the race, down from 3 percent in February.

All together, that means the number of undecided or uncommitted respondents dropped from 14 percent to 5 percent in a little over a month. Of that 9 percentage point change, 5 went to Berg while 4 went to Pomeroy -- which is why Berg's lead increased by only 1 percentage point.

"I guess from my perspective it's encouraging to see more of the undecided join our effort," Berg said.

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Mark Schneider, the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party chairman, said he thinks people are still making up their minds on how they will vote.

"There's been so much misinformation, and of course that poll comes right after the Republican convention, too," he said.

Republicans held their state convention last weekend in Grand Forks, and Democrats are holding theirs this weekend in Fargo.

"It'll be interesting to see where that is as we move on into the late spring and early summer," Schneider added.

Berg pointed out he's only been the endorsed Republican candidate since Saturday, which means the campaign season is only just beginning.

"We've started out campaign for the general election yet," he said. "That's just getting started now."

Impact

In a Thursday statement, the National Republican Congressional Committee highlighted the latest poll results and included a reminder of what they said last week.

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"By supporting a massive government takeover of health care ... Earl Pomeroy has all but guaranteed that his current term in Congress will be his last," the statement read.

Schneider said Rasmussen Reports is considered to have a Republican bias, which could take away from its validity.

"This is a right-wing Republican pollster, so frankly I don't believe it," Schneider said.

Timpe's statement on behalf of Pomeroy echoed those bias concerns.

"Election Day is more than seven months away," Timpe wrote. "We are not paying attention to polls, much less skewed polls done by Republican-leaning outfits."

The fact that the poll was conducted just days after the U.S. House approved health care reform legislation also probably affected the results, Schneider said. But he expects that impact to diminish over the next few months.

"All the misinformation is starting to be overcome by honest reporting about what's really in the law now," he said.

Still, Schneider said these polls aren't the deciding factor in who will win the state's lone spot on the U.S. House, which Pomeroy has held since 1992.

"The only poll that counts is the one on Election Day," he said.

Berg is also taking the latest numbers with a grain of salt.

"The only poll that matters is the one on Nov. 2."

Johnson reports on local politics. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

Rep. Earl Pomeroy
Earl Pomeroy

Related Topics: RICK BERG
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