Local incumbents have also suffered. In 2010, voters ousted the state's sole U.S. representative, a Democrat, in favor of a Republican. They replaced retiring U.S. Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, also a Democrat, with another Republican, the first time in a quarter-century the GOP seized both seats. The third member of the congressional delegation, Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad, has said he will not run for reelection in 2012.
The people who inhabit the endless rows of white trailers in the boomtowns hail from all sides of the political spectrum, but are now united in frustration.
"I would vote them all out. Things are wonderful here, but you have to look at the rest of the world," said Alisha Fuston, who moved to Williston from Gainesville, Ga., with her husband, Adam, and their two children when he got a well-paying job as a pipe yard foreman. Back in Georgia, her husband worked in a chicken plant and barely made enough money to pay the bills.
Presidential candidates are canvassing Samuel Hicks' home state of Iowa in advance of the caucuses, but the 31-year-old Hicks says he has other things to think about. He recently arrived in Williston to find all of the hotels booked and spent his first night camping by train tracks until police hustled him along. He then walked four miles to Wal-Mart, bought a tent, and set it up by a creek behind the place where he found a job on his second day in town. He's had to weather gale-force winds and heavy rain, and has subsisted on beef jerky, Pop-Tarts and peanut butter.