Heidi Heitkamp Was Part Of The Democrats' National Senate Strategy, And It Failed


Yesterday I wrote about Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s no good, very bad election day. Heitkamp poured over a quarter million dollars of her campaign and PAC money into Democrat candidates across the country – mostly Senate candidates. Heitkamp also spent a significant amount of time on the campaign trail stumping for candidates like Mark Pryor, Alison Grimes, and Michelle Nunn. Democrats fighting tough campaigns in Republican-leaning states.

It turns out Heidi’s campaigning was part of the national Democrat strategy. They were leaning on her for success in those red state races. After all, Heitkamp had won an upset victory over Rick Berg here in North Dakota in 2012.

The Washington Post notes Heitkamp’s importance to Democrats in 2014 in this post-mortem of the Senate races:

Democrats began the 2014 campaign with a big disadvantage: They had to defend seats in six deeply Republican states — enough to lose the Senate — and a handful of others in swing states.

Burdened by the climate, Democrats believed they still could win if they localized races and framed each as a choice between two candidates. The strategy worked in 2012. On his office windowsill at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), the group’s executive director, Guy Cecil, displayed a beer mug shaped like a cowboy boot with the name “Heidi” on the side — a reminder of how Democrat Heidi Heitkamp won a Senate seat that year in heavily Republican North Dakota.

How did the “Heidi strategy” work out for Democrats?

They went 1-11 in the comeptitive Senate races where Heitkamp campaigned. They went 1-12 if you count John Walsh in Montana who got $10,000 from Heitkamp before dropping out amidst a plagiarism scandal.

Heitkamp enjoyed some mystique – for lack of a better term – after her upset 2012 win. She was touted as the model for how Democrats could win in a red state.

Turns out her victory may have been a fluke. Even with Heitkamp on the stump, Democrats couldn’t replicate the strategy in other states.