Heidi Heitkamp

North Dakota Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp (D) with gas workers

When Kent Conrad (D) decided to retire it was widely assumed that his decision was going to cost Democrats the North Dakota Senate seat this cycle, but Democrat Heidi Heitkamp has turned out to be a surprisingly strong candidate. A new Valley News Live / Mason-Dixon Poll found the North Dakota senate race tied with 47 percent backing Hietkamp and 47 percent back Republican Rick Berg.

The dynamic is North Dakota is a mirror opposite of the close Massachusetts senate race. Like Scott Brown (R) in Massachusetts, Hietkamp is personally well likely and that is what is helping to keep the race close. Her favorability rating is an impressive 46 percent favorable to 35 percent unfavorable and is noticeably higher than Berg’s.

The problem for Hietkamp is the top of the ticket and the natural leanings of the state. Mitt Romney has a huge 14 point lead over President Obama in North Dakota. To win Hietkamp is going to need a lot of people splitting their ballot during an election when voters are turned off by the idea of divided government.

Hietkamp is running against some serious headwinds in the state but so far she has managed to do well. North Dakota may end up being the closest Senate race on election night.