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McFeely: Poll shows Mund within 4% of Armstrong in ND U.S. House race

A memo says the race between incumbent Republican and independent "competitive" was sparked by the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Congressman Kelly Armstrong and Cara Mund
Republican Congressman Kelly Armstrong, left, and independent U.S. House challenger Cara Mund, right.
File photos
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FARGO — The race for North Dakota's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is competitive and abortion appears to be a key reason why, according to poll results obtained by The Forum.

Incumbent Republican Kelly Armstrong leads independent challenger Cara Mund by just four points, according to a poll conducted by DFM Research and outlined in a memo to North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party executive director Tyler Hogan.

The poll has Armstrong, first elected in 2018, with 44% while Mund, a first-time candidate for public office and a former Miss America, is at 40%. Undecideds make up 14% of respondents while "other" garnered 2%.

The numbers are shocking if they accurately reflect North Dakotans' views of Armstrong and Mund. Armstrong won his 2020 bid for re-election with nearly 70% of the vote while Democrat Zach Raknerud received less than 30%.

It's the first poll on the race to be made public. It's likely Republicans are conducting polls, but none have been made public.

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"The people of North Dakota want their voice heard and recognize it's time for change," Mund said in a statement. "Our state knows and values that I will work endlessly to put people over party, ensure equal rights for women, protect constitutional rights, protect democracy, and do what is best for our state."

Armstrong could not immediately be reached for comment.

The poll was conducted Sept. 19-21 by live phone calls with 400 likely North Dakota voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.9%.

It was sponsored by the Democratic-NPL Party and is what is known in the political world as an internal poll, not meant for public consumption. The Forum obtained a copy of the memo earlier this week.

"What we’ve observed is that voters across the political spectrum are tired of the status quo," Hogan said when asked about the poll. "They don’t believe that our state is moving on the right track, and they’ve began to sour on our federal delegation. Voters want fresh ideas, they want action, and the Dobbs decision has really altered the political landscape — both here in North Dakota, and across the nation."

More on the ND U.S. House race
Incumbent Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Independent challenger Cara Mund discussed numerous issues on Tuesday, Sept. 27, including abortion, student loans, Social Security and inflation.
Mund, who got into this race late, who has zero track record outside of campaign-trail statements to illustrate how she might vote in Congress, is trying to be all things to all people, and in
By encouraging Mark Haugen to leave the U.S. House race, Democrats assure independent candidate will be labeled as anything but independent
If Rep. Kelly Armstrong and his surrogates believe independent candidate Cara Mund is a threat, you'll know it by how they treat her

Hogan wouldn't answer specific questions about the poll.

The question on Armstrong and Mund appears to be part of a larger poll conducted by DFM Research, a St. Paul-based firm that regularly polls North Dakota. The memo includes the results of three poll questions, but the questions are labeled 2a, 4 and 12.

When reached for further comment about the poll DFM Research pollster Dean Mitchell confirmed the results but when asked specific questions replied, "The memo speaks for itself."

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"In short, the U.S. House race is competitive," the memo says, "with Cara Mund only 4 percentage points down (44-40%); this despite the same respondents showing a very unfavorable opinion of President Joe Biden and a survey sample that is R+24 (42% R and 18 D)."

The poll being R+24 indicates DFM weighted respondents to show North Dakota's strongly Republican lean.

"This data also makes a huge statement when the incumbent has received nearly $1 million from PACs ... and I've taken none," Mund said. "Considering the incumbent's special interest money and his voting record, North Dakotans want and deserve a leader who will actually represent them."

One of the questions on the memo asked respondents about their view of the Democrat Biden, and it indicated 65% of North Dakotans view him unfavorably. That includes 60% who view him very unfavorably. Just 33% view Biden favorably, including only 14% who see him very favorably.

The third question included on the memo asked respondents how mad they'd be if their legislator supported an abortion ban. Thirty-nine percent said "very mad," 9% said "mad" and 9% said "somewhat mad."

Thirty percent responded "not mad at all."

"The closeness of the House race is probably due in part to the high number of North Dakotans who are mad or very mad if legislators supported an abortion ban," the memo said.

The memo also includes a tantalizing nugget about North Dakota's three-way U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican John Hoeven, Democrat Katrina Christiansen and deposed conservative Republican Rick Becker.

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Though no numbers are provided, the memo states: "The other statewide races are about where you would expect, although Rick Becker’s strong numbers make the three-way U.S. Senate race not a foregone conclusion."

When asked about the U.S. Senate poll, Mitchell declined to comment.

The Armstrong-Mund race has garnered considerable media attention in North Dakota in what was expected to be an otherwise sleepy political year, given the GOP's statewide dominance of politics.

Mund, 28, added some juice when she announced an independent bid for the state's at-large House seat in early August. She is a native of Bismarck, won the Miss America title in 2017 and graduated from Harvard Law School in May.

Armstrong is a Dickinson native who has a law degree from the University of North Dakota and served as a state senator from 2012-2018. He was chair of the North Dakota Republican Party from 2015-2018.

Mark Haugen, a longtime Democrat-NPL member recruited at the party's convention to face Armstrong, dropped out of the race in early September after being encouraged to do so by some Democrats.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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