Some numbers to digest before N.D. U.S. Senate results start coming in

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A couple of nerdy numbers things to look at a few hours before results start coming in the North Dakota U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp and Republican challenger Kevin Cramer.

In Heitkamp's victory over Rick Berg in 2012, she built a blue wall in the eastern part of the state. In addition to winning Cass (Fargo/West Fargo) and Grand Forks (Grand Forks) counties by wide margins, Heitkamp pulled a majority in the eastern third of North Dakota. Outside of Cass and Grand Forks counties, this could be referred to as "rural east North Dakota."

In the 18 "rural east" counties Heitkamp won in 2012, she banked a 10,259 vote lead. Include her 9,901-vote advantage in Cass County and a 3,441-vote edge in Grand Forks County, she took a 23,871-vote lead in the eastern third of the state.

Included in that eastern third are three counties that include all or portions of two Indian reservations. Rollette County is home to the Turtle Mountain Reservation. Rolette County gave Heitkamp a 2,760-vote advantage. Benson and Eddy counties, the primary location of the Spirit Lake Reservation, gave Heitkamp a 982-vote edge.

Heitkamp won four central or western counties, including Sioux County, which is home to the Standing Rock Reservation. Sioux County was a 778-vote advantage for Heitkamp.

So there are a few things to watch Tuesday night as the results are reported if Heitkamp has a chance to upset Cramer.

  • Heitkamp has to win massively in Cass and Grand Forks counties, even more massively than she did in 2012. She'll likely need significantly more than the 56.51 percent she received in Cass in 2012.
  • If, as some believe, the "rural east" counties swing heavily to Cramer (aka President Donald Trump), it might be too much for Heitkamp to overcome. If the 10,529-vote advantage in "rural east" is significantly smaller or disappears altogether, she has no chance to win the state.
  • Stutsman County is often seen as a bellwether of statewide races because historically it reflects statewide outcomes. Heitkamp defeated Berg 50.61 percent to 49.07 in Stutsman in 2012. Statewide, she beat him 50.2 to 49.3. So keep an eye on Stutsman County. If Cramer wins Stutsman by a wide margin, history says he wins the race and likely by a similar margin.
  • Burleigh County, while Republican-leaning, can often provide a significant number of votes for Democrats. Historically, a Democrat who gets 42 percent or better in Burleigh has a chance to win statewide. Heitkamp lost Burleigh to Berg, but garnered 44.79 percent (19,284 votes) in a race she won by 3,000 statewide.

Here are the vote totals, from the North Dakota Secretary of State's office, from the "rural east" and select other counties from the 2012 U.S. Senate race. It will be interesting to compare them to the 2018 results.

Pembina -- Heitkamp 1,672 votes -- 51.30 percent / Berg 1,579 -- 48.45

Walsh -- Heitkamp 2,819 --- 55.20 / Rick Berg 2,270 -- 44.45

Grand Forks -- Heitkamp 16,542 -- 55.60 / Berg 13,101 -- 44.04

Traill -- Heitkamp 2,311 -- 59.06 / Berg 1,589 -- 40.61

Cass -- Heitkamp 41,470 -- 56.51 / Berg 31,569 -- 43.00

Richland -- Heitkamp 4,445 -- 58.39 / Berg 3,135 -- 41.18

Cavalier -- Heitkamp 1,087 -- 52.49 / Berg 977 -- 47.18

Ramsey -- Heitkamp 2,766 -- 55.18 / Berg 2,229 -- 44.46

Nelson -- Heitkamp 993 -- 59.50 / Berg 670 -- 40.14

Steele -- Heitkamp 641 -- 61.63 / Berg 398 -- 38.27

Griggs -- Heitkamp 704 -- 52.85 / Berg 628 -- 47.15

Barnes -- Heitkamp 3,181 -- 57.51 / Berg 2,329 -- 42.11

Ransom -- Heitkamp 1,669 -- 68.71 / Berg 755 -- 31.08

Sargent -- Heitkamp 1,321 -- 65.66 / Berg 679 -- 33.75

Towner -- Heitkamp 699 -- 59.39 / Berg 472 -- 40.10

Rolette -- Heitkamp 3,662 -- 80.08 / Berg 902 -- 19.72

Benson -- Heitkamp 1,453 -- 67.08 / Berg 709 -- 32.73

Eddy -- Heitkamp 693 -- 60.00 / Berg 455 -- 39.39

Foster -- Heitkamp 853 -- 51.05 / Berg 810 -- 48.47

Stutsman -- Heitkamp 4,800 -- 50.61 / Berg 4,654 -- 49.07

Sioux -- Heitkamp 963 -- 83.52 / Berg 185 -- 16.05

McHenry -- Heitkamp 1,359 -- 50.20 / Berg 1,339 -- 49.46

Mountrail -- Heitkamp 1,745 -- 50.92 / Berg 1,673 -- 48.82

Divide -- Heitkamp 592 -- 50.95 / Berg 567 -- 48.80

Burleigh -- Berg 23,538 -- 54.67 / Heitkamp 19,284 -- 44.79

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