Incumbent Byron Dorgan never had a difficult time getting elected, as he obtained 59%, 63%, and 68% in his three senate election bids, respectively. However, in December 2009, Rasmussen Reports conducted a hypothetical matchup of Governor John Hoeven against the incumbent. Hoeven led by a large margin, 58% to Dorgan's 36%. It should be noted that 61% of the state still had a favorable view of Dorgan, and if pitted against State Senator Duane Sand, the incumbent led 52% to 37%.
Several prominent members of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party expressed an interest in the U.S. Senate race once Senator Dorgan announced that he would not run again. Among those people were Joel Heitkamp, a former North Dakota state senator and current radio talk show host of News and Views on KFGO Radio in Fargo, N.D. His sister, former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp of Bismarck, N.D., also considered running, but declined to enter the race as well.
While flattered to have been asked, Schultz said he had to decline in that he would have been forced to give up his nightly television program on MSNBCThe Ed Show as well as his daily progressive national radio show, The Ed Schultz Show, in order to run.
Also, Federal Communications Commission regulations decree that equal and free air time would have had to be given to whomever Schultz's opponents would have been in the election in order to allow them to respond to anything that Schultz would have said about them on his programs.
Hoeven was challenged in the race by North Dakota State Senator Tracy Potter of Bismarck. Potter received the endorsement of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party at its state convention on March 27, 2010. Governor Hoeven and Senator Potter advanced to the November 2, 2010 general election following balloting in North Dakota's primary election, which was held on June 8, 2010. Neither candidate faced any significant opposition in the primary election.
Aggregate polling indicated that Hoeven had large leads against Potter. Hoeven was enormously popular and enjoyed instant name recognition throughout the state of North Dakota. Hoeven was elected to an unprecedented third consecutive four-year term as governor in November 2008. Hoeven's election in 2010 to the U.S. Senate appeared to be all but a sure thing even before the campaign officially started. The immensely popular Hoeven enjoyed double-digit leads in opinion polling relative to the U.S. Senate race since earlier this year.
John Hoeven was sworn into the U.S. Senate on January 3, 2011.