For many years now, Byron Dorgan has sailed comfortably to re-election in North Dakota despite his liberal voting record in one of the reddest states in the union. This year, however, Dorgan has been one of the key Senators responsible for shepherding Obamacare through the Senate.  A recent poll released by Zogby indicates that if popular Governor John Hoeven challenges him, Dorgan may be dead in the water:

UTICA, New York – In a potential 2010 election match-up Republican Governor John Hoeven leads Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan 55% to 36% with 9% undecided.  Senator Dorgan, however, leads another possible challenger, Republican Duane Sand, by a similar margin, 60% to 28% with 10% undecided. 

Twenty-eight percent of likely North Dakotan voters support the healthcare bill proposed by President Obama compared with 62% who oppose the proposed legislation, including 48% who strongly oppose the bill.  A plurality of respondents believe that both North Dakota Senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad support the proposed bill.

Unbelievably, the numbers get instantaneously and significantly worse when voters are informed of Dorgan’s support for the bill:

When asked how a vote by Senator Dorgan in support of the healthcare bill would impact their potential vote for the Senator in the 2010 election, 12% of likely voters say they would be more likely to vote for Senator Dorgan as a result, while 40% would be less likely. 

When likely voters are told that Senator Dorgan supports the legislation his support in the potential horse race against Governor Hoeven slips to 31% with 61% preferring the Governor and 8% undecided. 

That’s a pretty easy 30-second campaign ad to generate an instantaneous 30-point gap against the incumbent.  Privately, Hoeven’s people seem to indicate that Hoeven has no interest in going to Washington, but if Hoeven throws his hat into the ring, Dorgan clearly has two choices: abandon Obamacare or start preparing his retirement plans.  Given that most Senators have a remarkable sense of their own self-preservation, I can bet which one Dorgan would choose.