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Patrick Springer, Published October 23 2012

New poll puts Berg up 5 in Senate race

FARGO – A new poll released Tuesday shows Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Berg leading Democrat Heidi Heitkamp 50 percent to 45 percent in the North Dakota U.S. Senate race.

Five percent of voters remain undecided two weeks before the Nov. 6 election, according to a Rasmussen poll of 600 likely voters surveyed Oct. 17-18. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The two campaigns immediately sparred over the validity of the poll, as each side tries to define the race’s storyline as it enters the final phase.

Berg’s camp touted the poll as the second survey to show him with 50 percent, and Heitkamp’s dismissed Rasmussen polls as skewed toward Republicans.

In releasing the results of its latest poll, Rasmussen said Berg continues to hold a “modest” lead over Heitkamp, a former state attorney general.

Forum Communications published a poll Saturday by Essman/Research showing Berg leading Heitkamp 50 percent to 40 percent, with 10 percent undecided.

“It is clear that North Dakotans continue to reject Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign of false and negative personal attacks and are focused on the big issues of this election,” Berg campaign spokesman Chris Van Guilder said in a statement.

The Heitkamp campaign assailed the credibility of the Rasmussen poll and pointed to its own internal poll showing Heitkamp ahead by three percentage points in a survey with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

“Our poll shows Heidi leading by three points with a commanding lead among independents and significantly higher personal favorability ratings,” said Brandon Lorenz, a spokesman for the Heitkamp campaign. “These are the key ingredients to victory for us.”

The Heitkamp campaign released a memo by The Mellman Group summarizing its poll results, but did not disclose the wording of the questions or the demographic breakdown of poll respondents.

The Forum poll, which the Heitkamp campaign said did not poll enough Democrats, showed Berg with a slight favorability edge over Heitkamp, 48 percent to 47 percent.

A July Rasmussen poll showed Berg leading Heitkamp 49 percent to 40 percent, but a Mason-Dixon poll earlier this month showed both Senate candidates tied at 47 percent.

Both candidates campaigned in the area Tuesday.

Heitkamp, a former Attorney General, made a stop in Fargo on what she calls her “Balance the Budget Tour” to highlight her spending proposals to balance the federal budget, including forgoing any Senate pay increases if she is elected.

Berg was in West Fargo at Integrity Windows and Doors to receive an award from the National Association of Manufacturers.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522