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Ready for a political ad blitz?

North Dakota's television airwaves already are dominated by campaign ads seeking to drum up support for Democratic incumbent Rep. Earl Pomeroy and Republican challenger Rick Berg.

Rick Berg and Earl Pomeroy
U.S. House Candidates Republican Rick Berg, left and Democratic incumbent Rep. Earl Pomeroy debate earlier this year at the Holiday Inn of Fargo. The Berg-Pomeroy U.S. congressional seat battle has included a number of negative or attack ads by the candidates or third-party groups. David Samson/The Forum.

North Dakota's television airwaves already are dominated by campaign ads seeking to drum up support for Democratic incumbent Rep. Earl Pomeroy and Republican challenger Rick Berg.

But a new round of nationally funded ads will bring even more attention to the state's tight U.S. House race in the final days leading to Nov. 2.

Berg and Pomeroy have received the support -- and financial backing -- of national committees that plan to invest heavily in the remaining three weeks of campaigning.

A wave of ads hitting the state comes from both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Spokeswoman Gabby Adler said Wednesday that the DCCC was scheduled to spend more than $900,000 to support Pomeroy's re-election bid. That's more than double the $382,000 that the NRCC plans to spend in support of Berg, she said.


"Right now, we do have a very significant ad reservation up for the next three weeks," she said.

The NRCC had a presence in North Dakota even before the March state convention that chose Berg as the party's endorsed candidate -- the committee funded ads in November and February urging Pomeroy to vote against health care reform.

"North Dakotans can expect to see a lot more ads from us that go into the real details of what Earl Pomeroy does when he's in Washington," NRCC spokesman Tom Erickson said.

The Berg campaign ran its first television ad in August and has since released six more ads. Campaign spokesman Tom Nelson said that pace is "about where we planned" all year.

"Our message all along has been that Washington is broken," he said. "The people are telling us that Washington's going the wrong direction."

Pomeroy's campaign released its first television ad in April and has since released 14 more, including 10 that have hit the airwaves over the past two months.

Brenden Timpe, a spokesman for Pomeroy, said more ads are on the way as the campaign outlines the choice voters face between "two candidates with very clear records."

"We're going to continue to make our case for why Earl needs to be re-elected," he said.


A national boost

Erickson said the NRCC has made a "significant commitment" to defeating Pomeroy. Berg was added to the committee's "Young Guns" program early in the campaign­, giving him political support as he ran against the nine-term incumbent.

The NRCC resumed its criticism of Pomeroy late last month with an ad that said he "votes the party line," and released a new ad last week that focused on the campaign contributions Pomeroy has received from insurance companies.

Both ads this fall are talking about his vote for health care reform, a vote the committee has said for almost a year could cost Pomeroy his spot in the U.S. House.

"We weren't kidding around when we said that Earl Pomeroy's support for the Obama health care bill would cost him his career," Erickson said. "I think it was a turning point in his career. He had to take sides, and he ended up taking the side of Democrats in Washington, not the people of North Dakota."

But the NRCC would be targeting Pomeroy this fall even if he hadn't voted for the legislation, Erickson said, because he also voted for the "wildly unpopular" economic stimulus bill that would have given the committee "plenty of ammunition" this campaign season.

The DCCC on Monday released its first local ad, criticizing Berg for his vote in favor of a 2001 bill the committee said would have allowed banks to sell their customers' financial information.

Adler said the DCCC's independent expenditures side currently has reservations to continue airing ads on North Dakota stations until Election Day. But those plans could change if the committee decides to recommit the funds to another race, she said.


The DCCC has a bigger stake in Pomeroy's re-election bid this year than it did in the races he faced in 2006 and 2008, Adler said, because this election cycle is "much different."

Historically, she said, a new party taking power in the White House has prompted that party to lose seats in Congress in the following midterm election all but twice since Abraham Lincoln was elected.

"We knew from Day 1 that this was going to be a difficult election cycle based on history alone," she said. "You add to that Democrats had made record gains in 2006 and 2008. That just meant it was going to be a tough election cycle."

While Adler acknowledged that Democrats are facing a challenging election environment this year, she said the committee believes voters will re-elect Pomeroy next month.

"We feel confident, though, that Earl Pomeroy is going to win on election night," she said.

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

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