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As others see it: A likely GOP gain

It would have been big news had North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven said no to a run for the U.S. Senate. As it was, his announcement Monday to seek the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan was anticlimactic at best, ho-hum at worst. To no one's surprise, GOP faithful made a party of it. But the undercurrent in the party -- as it has been since the Republican governor took office -- is grumbling among the right wing about his unapologetic moderation.

Still, had he decided to take a pass and concentrate on being the very successful governor he has been, Hoeven would have again underscored the independence from partisan politics that has distinguished his years as governor. His admirable leadership style has been especially visible at the Legislature, where the more conservative members of the Republican caucuses have been less than enamored of his willingness to resist their agenda.

Further cementing his credentials as a governor who knows how to reach across the political aisle in order to advance the interests of all North Dakotans is his record of working hand-in-glove with the state's Democratic congressional delegation.

No matter how the political baloney is sliced, there is no denying the governor has been on the same page as the congressional delegation regarding the major public policy issues that are important to the state. ..

And what of a Democratic candidate to challenge Hoeven for the open Senate seat? The landscape is dark. The bench is nearly empty. The prospects are bleak. The most credible candidate would be former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, who ran against Hoeven for governor and lost. But other than Heitkamp, who does not seem energized by a possible Senate race, the candidate pickins' are slim.

Hoeven is the most popular governor in the nation. That deep well of earned good will among North Dakotans will translate into a Senate race that could be, barring circumstances so unforeseen as to be indefinable, a landslide win. ...