EXCLUSIVE: Berg unveils 1st TV ad to promote Senate bid

Rick Berg

FARGO – With 36 days until the North Dakota Republican Party‘s state convention, Rep. Rick Berg is making his campaign debut Wednesday on statewide airwaves in order to spread the message of his U.S. Senate bid.

Berg’s campaign released their first ad exclusively to The Forum Tuesday evening, yet offered little insight into the political strategy prompting the commercial.

The 30-second bit offers a relaxed, light-hearted look at Berg with his mother, Francie, who still lives in Berg’s hometown of Hettinger in the southwest part of North Dakota.

Berg mentions his pledge to push for a balanced budget amendment if elected to the U.S. Senate, but otherwise, the ad emphasizes the freshman congressman’s hard-working roots.

For those interested, here is also a transcript of the ad:

Francie Berg: I want to tell you about my son, Rick Berg.

Rick Berg: Uh-oh.

FB: Rick grew up here in Hettinger. Rick’s dad was a veterinarian and Rick spent his summers hauling bales and working cattle, earning money to pay his way to college. No free lunch at our house. He knows the value of a dollar.

RB: That’s why I’ll fight for a balanced budget in the Senate.

FB: Because that’s the North Dakota way.

RB: I’m Rick Berg

FB: And Rick’s mom

RB: And we approve this message.

FB: But Rick I have more to tell them.

RB: Nope, we’re out of time!

Although there’s precedent in North Dakota for candidates running campaign ads before the state nominating conventions, Berg’s strategy prompts a major question from his Republican opponent: Why?

As a sitting congressman, Berg is largely believed to be a shoe-in for the GOP endorsement – despite the fact he faces competition from Bismarck businessman Duane Sand, who’s making his fourth attempt this year to win a seat in Congress.

Duane Sand

Sand himself has acknowledged he’s a long-shot for the nomination, but that’s not stopping him from launching an aggressive campaign criticizing Berg for not being conservative enough and for not willing to go against the party establishment when necessary.

Sand launched his first ad last week, advocating for the Keystone XL pipeline as a means to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. In that ad, Sand appears to take a shot at Berg, concluding the commercial by saying the energy issue is why he wants to be elected to the U.S. Senate, “not as a springboard for higher office.”

Berg’s campaign declined to reveal information about the size of the ad buy they’re launching Wednesday.

Sand said he heard Berg shelled out $100,000 to have the ad air statewide, but that figure could not be independently confirmed by The Forum on Tuesday evening.

“Clearly, he’s expending a great deal of resources very early in the process,” Sand said. “The question is: Why is he doing that, especially if he thinks he’s going to waltz through the convention?”

In comparison, Sand said he spent $2,000 to have his ad air “on strategic shows when we know Republicans are watching.”

Recognizing Berg’s competitive drive, Sand isn’t surprised by Berg’s ad, but Sand said he does think it’s notable coincidence that Berg’s ad is hitting airwaves less than a week after Sand released his first commercial.

“This demonstrates he’s clearly concerned about the nomination,” Sand said.

While it’s not common practice in North Dakota, some major GOP candidates have launched advertising campaigns prior to past state conventions in order to get their messages out.

Ed Shafer did it in the infancy of his first gubernatorial bid in 1992; now-Sen. John Hoeven did it before his first governor’s race in 2000, and Berg himself did it two years ago when he faced a contested bid for the party’s endorsement in the U.S. House race he later won.

Originally published: 7:55 p.m. Feb. 21. Updated: 10:35 a.m. Feb. 22.

RELATED: “Berg’s ‘Mom’ ad recycles Democratic Va. legislator’s 2011 pitch

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