(CNN) – Democrats in charge of electing members of their party to the Senate in 2012 see an opportunity in North Dakota where a Republican is currently favored for the open Senate seat.
Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told CNN the Senate race in the state is "number one" on their list of contests that could become competitive in the next election.
Influential Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad announced earlier this year he will not seek a fifth term in the Republican-leaning state that went for Sen. John McCain in 2008 and former President George W. Bush in 2004.
Republican freshman Rep. Rick Berg is the current favorite in the race. Former state Democratic Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp is still considering a bid, and Cecil said she will likely make a final decision in the next four to five days.
Although he said candidate recruiting in the state is ongoing, he emphasized the perceived weak points in a candidate Berg.
"We walk in the door with an unpopular member of Congress who was in Congress for three months before he decided to run for Senate," Cecil told CNN. "There are issues about Berg's perhaps business performance and economic performance and about how engaged he actually is as a member of the House."
"We are very encouraged about North Dakota and excited that we could have a race in a place where most people didn't think," Cecil added.
Two non-partisan political handicappers, Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook, have the race listed as "Republican favored" and "Likely Republican" respectively.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee cast doubts on Democrats chances in North Dakota.
“If national Democrats seriously believe that an outspoken supporter of the Obama agenda like Heidi Heitkamp represents their best chance to hold this Senate seat than they should probably get outside the Beltway a little more." Brian Walsh, NRSC Communications Director, said in an email. "But we look forward to President Obama bringing his campaign tour bus to North Dakota where he and Heidi can campaign side-by-side and tout their government health care bill and failed stimulus spending policies.”
Democrats currently have a 53 to 47 majority in the Senate. They are defending 23 seats, including 21 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party, next year. Republicans are defending 10 seats.