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All eyes, ears on the US Senate race in ND? Maybe

The ads are airing – the pollsters are polling – and the pundits are practicing punditry. But are people paying attention?

Mark  Springer is a political science professor at Bismarck’s Universityof Mary. He says while there are a lot of ads airing, especially in the Senate race between Rick Berg and Heidi Heitkamp, there’s a lot more to come – especially after Labor Day.

"I think a lot of the candidates are trying to back-load this time," said Springer. "In 2008 and 2010, some of the effects of front-loading -- where they put all their money up front -- backfired on candidates.  It became difficult at the end, when the other candidate was out-spending them, to keep pace."

And Springer says – given the national interest in the race, he expects a lot more spending by political action committees. He says it will be, by far, the most expensive US Senate race in state history.

Springer says he isn’t surprised that the Rick Berg campaign – and Republican PACs – have focused on Heidi Heitkamp’s support of the Affordable Care Act, that has been dubbed “Obamacare.”

"I think part of that is, they can't hit Heitkamp on some of the energy concerns that nationally have been the issue with (President) Obama," said Springer. "Or economically, because Heitkamp has been such a big part of it within the state. So, that's one of the main issues they can it her with. And she has sound bites from 2008 that link her to that."

Springer says Heitkamp has had some effective counter-punch ads concerning health care.  He also says because of what will likely be record spending in the US Senate race -- and spending in the other top-of-ticket races, like US House and Governor -- it will be tough for other local and statewide candidates to get much attention.

"These candidates, in essence, have to get name recognition," said Springer. "That's why you see a lot more yard signs and billboards, just to get that name out there."

But Springer says it will be difficult for them to get the issues on the table.

"I think that's a job the candidates have to start addressing," said Springer.

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