Senator Heidi Heitkamp is really, super-duper worried about her re-election chances in 2018.

She has her surrogates out attacking Rep. Kevin Cramer who she clearly sees as her most likely opponent next year (whether that’s actually the case remains to be seen). She tapped the left wing donor network early and often to put up a big fundraising number in the first quarter of this year (the unfortunate side effect being that just about all the money she reported came from out of state).

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]She’s running in 2018, and she’s running scared.[/mks_pullquote]

Now, on the heels of a very controversial vote against repealing an Obama-era flaring rule which Heitkamp herself admits “overreached,” her fellow red state Joe Manchin (D-WV) just happens to have a letter to the editor today in the Bismarck Tribune praising Heitkamp’s work helping coal miners.

The political motivations at play here are so blatant they might as well be a punch in the jaw.

For one, Heitkamp is deeply nervous ahead of the 2018 election. She knows she’s vulnerable. She’s trying to make a show of being strong. Which she is in some ways. Her approval numbers are certainly higher than Republicans would like them to be.

For another, Heitkamp knows that vote yesterday on the BLM rule put a big dent in her reputation as a moderate Democrat far removed from her political party’s hostility things like coal mining and oil development.

Thus, to muddy the waters around Heitkamp’s vote yesterday, Senator Manchin steps in somewhat randomly to praise her work on behalf of coal miners.

That Heitkamp clearly feels she needs that sort of support speaks volumes.

She’s running in 2018, and she’s running scared.

Which doesn’t mean she’s going to lose. Republicans need to field a strong candidate, and run a strong campaign, if they hope to win. Heitkamp is a formidable campaigner.

But if anything is a window into Heitkamp’s anxiety about the upcoming election cycle, this is it.