The fundamental political quandary Senator Heidi Heitkamp faces in her quest to remain elected is how to square how she portrays herself to North Dakota voters with the policies of Democrats nationally.
Heitkamp positions herself as a middle-of-the-road moderate who contrasts sharply with national Democrats in areas like energy policy. In 2012 Heitkamp ran a campaign distancing herself from President Barack Obama (even though she said she would vote for him) on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline.
But now a presidential candidate Heitkamp has specifically endorsed is taking political positions that are deeply inconvenient for Heitkamp here in North Dakota.
In 2013 the newly-elected Senator Heitkamp signed a letter urging Hillary Clinton to run for president. But so far in her campaign Clinton has taken a hostile position on fossil fuels, has refused to say if she’d approve the Keystone XL pipeline project if elected, and is now saying she would opposing lifting the oil export ban:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton opposes a House GOP effort to lift the federal ban on crude oil exports.
A campaign spokesman confirmed Wednesday night that the Democratic front-runner does not support the House bill. But the campaign didn’t say whether or not she could support the lifting the ban if some type of deal were struck or whether she’s opposed to crude oil exports in principle.
There is still some wiggle room there for Clinton, who is an experienced policy wiggler, but for Heitkamp the problem is clear.
How can she say she’s standing up for North Dakota while consistently backing presidential candidates, either through her endorsement or her vote, who oppose policies North Dakotans want?
Heitkamp wants North Dakotans to vote for her as a Democrat who will kinda sorta govern as a Republican, but given that Heitkamp is a vote for liberal Democrat presidents and a vote for liberal Democrat leadership in the U.S. Senate, you have to wonder why North Dakotans wouldn’t just, you know, vote for an actual Republican?
Meanwhile, Heitkamp (ostensibly a Catholic) recently took to her Facebook page to tout the Pope’s backing of the controversial Iran deal she voted for despite clear opposition from her constituents. As an atheist, I’m not one to lecture on Catholic doctrine, but it seems just a bit hypocritical for Heitkamp to use the Pope’s position on the Iran deal as political cover even as she eschews the Catholic stance on abortion.
I guess Heitkamp is a firm believer in having it both ways.