Did President Donald Trump really ask Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, now the opponent of one of his closest congressional allies in a heated electoral match up, to become a Republican?
That’s what Heitkamp told the Washington Post. She said it happened back during Trump’s transition into office when he was holding meetings with potential cabinet officials at Trump Tower in New York.
Heitkamp took one of those meetings, and says during it Trump asked her to switch parties.
I was a little skeptical of the claim when I first read the news. It just didn’t pass the smell test for me. If it happened, why would Heitkamp wait more than a year to make it public? Also, Heitkamp claims she might have been asked again to switch parties again during a ride on Air Force One with Trump last year but can’t remember specifically:
Last September, Trump flew Heitkamp and the rest of the North Dakota congressional delegation home from Washington on Air Force One for an event where he pitched his tax plan. On that day, Trump might have made another try to get Heitkamp to become a Republican, she said.
“Not on that trip,” said Heitkamp in the interview, before quickly correcting herself. “He might have asked me on that trip.”
That seems like something you’d remember, if it happened.
If it did happen, Heitkamp touting it here at the beginning of the campaign of her life is smart politics. North Dakota is a Trump state. The national Democratic party is kryptonite to North Dakota Democrats. Trump courting Heitkamp to become Republican is a really, really good look for Heitkamp.
But, again, did it happen? Trump can, and probably will, contradict Heitkamp if it didn’t happen. But for what it’s worth, Heitkamp’s opponent Congressman Kevin Cramer thinks it’s likely.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Cramer told me this morning when I asked him about it.
This has got to be frustrating for Cramer who bet his political career on this Senate race. Between asking Heitkamp to join his cabinet, calling Heitkamp a “good woman” during an event last year here in North Dakota, and now apparently asking her to switch parties Trump has done more to help the Democrat than he has to help Cramer.
Trump is expected to stump for Cramer once, maybe twice, during the 2018 cycle. But any good Trump can do for Cramer is going to be tempered by the former’s political flirtations with the incumbent.