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Port: Despite convention challenge, John Hoeven remains one of the most popular U.S. senators in America

Hoeven faced a high-profile challenge for the NDGOP's endorsement this spring, but that doesn't seem to have had any impact at all on his approval numbers.

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A delegate at the North Dakota Republican Party state convention holds up a sign advocating against Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., at the Bismarck Event Center on Saturday, April 2, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum
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MINOT, N.D. — This spring U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, one of the most popular elected officials in state history, got a surprising challenge from the populist fringe of his own party.

State Rep. Rick Becker received an eyebrow-raising 44% of the vote at the state convention, leading many political observers in the region to wag chins about what this means for Hoeven's enduring popularity.

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Data from this month's midterm election vote show the delegates showing up for the North Dakota Republican Party's candidate selection process are significantly out of touch with what North Dakota voters want from those candidates.

I've argued that it doesn't mean much . The NDGOP's convention process — wherein small and easily manipulated gatherings at the local level endorse local candidates and choose delegates to the state convention — is broken.

Stacked conventions are producing results that are out of step the views of the larger Republican electorate.

Why didn't Becker continue on to the June primary vote after the convention? Because a statewide vote on his nomination would have shattered the illusion of his popularity . His paltry fundraising numbers, as reported to the FEC, which included itemized donations from just 35 individuals , are also evidence of this.

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Now we have more evidence. Morning Consult releases quarterly polling measuring the popularity of America's 100 U.S. senators. As of the most recent polling, Sen. John Hoeven remains one of the most popular senators in America . He's No. 7 on the list, in fact, just ahead of West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin.

What's more, Becker's insurgency didn't put much of a dent in his approval numbers. Hoeven's approval in Q4 of 2021, based on a survey of 961 North Dakota voters, was 59%.

His approval in Q1 of 2022, based on a survey of 941 voters conducted while the heated convention battle between Becker and Hoeven was making statewide headlines, was 58%.

Sen. Kevin Cramer's numbers, which consistently run a few points behind Hoeven's, have also been stable. Cramer backed Hoeven against Becker's challenge.

The narrative Becker and his movement like to promote is one in which there is a rising level of dissatisfaction with North Dakota's Republican leadership. They aren't conservative enough, Becker likes to claim, so the state's conservative voters are turning on them.

But where, outside of the NDGOP's easily-manipulated convention process, is the evidence that this is true?

Hoeven, despite Becker's high-profile challenge, remains about as popular as ever.

Becker and his movement are currently hard at work in the NDGOP's legislative primaries, which will be settled in the statewide primary vote next week, but based on polling that's been shared with me, not to mention the fundraising in those races , I suspect they're going to find themselves largely unsuccessful again.

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Becker and his noisy caucus of Trump-aligned populists may be getting a lot of attention, but North Dakota's voters, at least from my point of view, mostly aren't persuaded.

I'd be very surprised if Hoeven didn't receive over 70 percent of the vote in North Dakota's general election.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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