Yesterday at a Hillary Clinton campaign event in Washington D.C., North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp endorsed Hillary Clinton for president alongside a dozen other female Democrat members of the Senate.
You can watch CSPAN’s video of the event here.
It’s an interesting move for Heitkamp. Over the holiday weekend reporter Mike Nowatzki published a story about how the progressive base of North Dakota’s Democrat party is sort of holding its nose over Heitkamp’s votes in favor of protecting fossil fuels and gun rights. Heitkamp herself has often campaigned against her national party, specifically against Barack Obama in 2012, touting her willingness to fight her own party.
In endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, Heitkamp is essentially endorsing another national leader she’ll have to fight to protect North Dakota from.
Clinton has made it clear that she will be no friend to North Dakota’s important fossil fuel industry, nor will her platform of environmental policies make sense to the state’s agriculture industry either. Clinton has said she would oppose the Keystone XL pipeline if elected. Supposing that project comes back to life during the term of whoever our next president is, I would assume that Heitkamp would still think it’s a good idea, given that she campaigned on approving it in 2012.
So why would Heitkamp endorse someone who will, in many ways, be bad for North Dakota and its prosperity?
Who knows. Perhaps Heitkamp lacks of the convictions of Senator Elizabeth Warren who cast a long shadow over the endorsement event yesterday with her absence from it, as Politico notes.
Warren has, at least so far, eschewed Clinton for ideological reasons. She doesn’t seem convinced that Clinton has the positions for America. While there probably isn’t much that I agree with Warren on, that’s a principled position worthy of a certain degree of respect.
Heitkamp, apparently, lacks that sort of conviction. Which is perhaps the biggest political obstacle she faces heading into 2018.
Republicans tell me they have polling which shows Heitkamp falling in her approval numbers. They haven’t shared the data with me, so I can’t speak to its veracity, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case. Heitkamp is a member of a political party that most North Dakotans have very little love for.
Heitkamp’s success in her upset 2012 campaign relied heavily on the distance she created between herself and her national party. It’s going to be harder for Heitkamp to maintain that distance after six years in the Senate, and an on-the-record endorsement of a president most in North Dakota already dislike.
What will candidate Heitkamp do in 2018? Especially if Hillary Clinton wins? Again, the key to Heitkamp’s success in 2012 was campaigning hard against Obama on key issues. But how can Heitkamp do that in 2018 one cycle after endorsing Clinton in 2016?