The Daily Beast today has a profile up today about Senator Heidi Heitkamp that reads like a hagiography. There’s even talk, fanned by quotes from former Senator Kent Conrad, of Heitkamp running for President.
Because that’s a first-term US Senator does a little more than a year after barely winning a statewide election. You talk about running for president.
But beyond the eye-rolling narrative, these comments from Heitkamp offering advice to other Democrats running this year left me a little gobsmacked:
Heitkamp came to Washington personifying traditional values of the Old West: candor, consistency, hard work, and a sense of good faith and fair play.
A pragmatist and a moderate, she serves as a role model for other Blue Dog women running for election in Red states. Her advice: lower the negative rhetoric and focus on your own abilities. “Too many people focus on discrediting the other candidate instead of promoting their own candidacy. All elections are choices. People want to know why you would be the better senator or governor or whatever.”
Just so we’re clear, this is the same Heidi Heitkamp who ran campaign ads, even in the earliest days of her campaign, accusing her opponent Rick Berg of hating women. Berg was an extremist who “attacks women,” according to web ads run by the DCCC and never once condemned by Heitkamp. Rick Berg would let women die from breast cancer, claimed another ad ran on Heitkamp’s behalf. And, with the campaign’s finish line in sight, Heitkamp’s campaign unleashed one of the sleaziest political ads I’ve ever heard, again accusing Berg of not caring about issues like domestic violence and cancer.
At one point, Heitkamp’s efforts to paint Berg – who made his fortunate in real estate – as an unsympathetic slum lord went so far into the land of baseless hyperbole that she was forced to take some of her ads down.
But please, Senator Heitkamp, tell us more about campaigns which “focus on discrediting the other candidate,” you enormous hypocrite. Tell us more about how to “lower the negative rhetoric.”
Ugly campaign ads are an unfortunate reality of politics, and I’ll not pretend as though Heitkamp was the only practitioner of the art. But hearing Heitkamp smugly condemn the practice from a Senate office won by smearing her opponent is a little more than I can take.
On a related note, in the profile Heitkamp also declares her support for Hillary Clinton, who everyone is assuming will be running for president in 2016:
A Hillary Clinton fan, Heitkamp believes the former secretary of State will run, win, and be “an excellent president.”
“It’s just blind hope,” she admits. “I think she transcends gender. When people look at her, they don’t see male or female. They see a very accomplished, qualified candidate. She’s very collaborative, very open to a different way of looking at things, uber smart. She digs down and understands an issue.”
Ironic comments, given that back in 2000 when Heitkamp was running for Governor of North Dakota against John Hoeven she actively distanced herself from Hillary Clinton. “Heitkamp said the GOP should stop trying to bring Hillary Clinton into the gubernatorial race,” the Associated Press reported at the time. “They’re not running against Hillary Clinton in North Dakota. They’re running against Heidi Heitkamp,” Heitkamp herself was quoted as saying.
If Heitkamp is on the ballot for Senate again when her term is up in 2018 – assuming she hasn’t left to run for governor again by then – and Hillary Clinton is president, I would expect her to distance herself again in this state where Obama lost by 20 points in 2012 and voters haven’t cast their ballots for a Democrat presidential candidate since LBJ.