With a small population North Dakota is one state where campaigning on a local level has a large impact. Candidates have the opportunity to meet with many of their future constituents which is a powerful tool. This proximity to the public gives the candidates an opportunity to make a lasting impression and show off their personality. As public opinion has a commanding presence in politics, giving voters attention can have a dramatic impact upon race results.
The opinions of the average citizen, when not shaped by personal interactions with the candidates, are often formulated based on information from news outlets and the media. The press’ portrayal of a given candidate can make or break a campaign. Securing the favor of these news outlets is often a difficult and capricious endeavor as they are more interested in getting a sound bite or a story than in the facts. Frequently bias clouds stories, as people aim at objectivity yet their own subjective views infiltrate the reporting. In choosing the content to publish at a given time, the press is inherently demonstrating bias. On occasion the press welcomes such bias as a means to reach a target audience that also supports these views or ideologies.
The press zeroed in on this North Dakota senate race due to the unexpectedly close margin between the two candidates in a predominately Republican state. Many headlines came up with variations on the same question, essentially, “North Dakota is a red state, so who is Heidi Heitkamp and why is the race so close?”. The political climate of North Dakota contributed to the shock associated with the close election and in turn heightened the media buzz. Televised advertisements are one way for the senatorial candidates to take back some control of their image in the press and to deliver a focused message to the public.
Running for a position in the Senate is not a cheap endeavor and requires ample financing. How candidates spend their money is as important as where their financial backing comes from. Interest groups, industries, Super PACs and individuals come together to fund these expensive campaigns. The money that is raised can then be spent on hiring political consultants, creating events to gain exposure, and developing effective advertisements. Berg out spent Heitkamp in the 2012 election by about $1,000,000. It is important to investigate how these candidates spent their money and how these investments impacted the opinions of North Dakotans.