Back in April of 2016 North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp had a 50 percent approval rating, and a 35 percent disapproval rating, making her the 61st most popular member of the United States Senate according to polling by Morning Consult.
But since Heitkamp pretty much launched her 2018 re-election bid in January, leaving her to campaign in a vacuum while Republicans decide who will challenger her, she’s managed to raise her approval significantly.
According to the latest poll from Morning Consult, Heitkamp is now at 60 percent approval and just 28 percent disapproval. That’s good for making her the 11th most popular member of the Senate.
Republican John Hoeven, meanwhile, has seen his approval rating slip a bit. In April of last year he was at 74 percent approval and 10 percent disapproval, making him the 3rd most popular Senator. In this most recent poll Hoeven is at 66 percent approval, 17 percent disapproval, which is still good for 4th spot on the list.
Heitkamp, though, is the real news here. She was already going to be a tough nut to crack for Republicans, but if this polling is to be believed she’s getting more popular. That’s trouble for the NDGOP.
Heitkamp will face no real challenge from within her party (sorry Dustin), but Republicans will have to navigate what promises to be a competitive primary process before they take on Heitkamp.
State Senator Tom Campbell has expressed an interest in challenging Heitkamp, as has state Rep. Rick Becker. Congressman Kevin Cramer is still deciding on whether he’ll run against Heitkamp. SBHE President Kathy Neset is being recruited by Republicans to run. Former Congressman and state lawmaker Rick Berg has also not ruled out a 2018 campaign.
If Republicans aren’t careful, she’ll win this race before they even nominate a candidate. Which isn’t to say that the 2018 race won’t be hotly contested by Republicans.
It will be. I’d be willing to bet that it will be one of the most expensive Senate campaigns in our state’s history, if not the most expensive.
But it will all be for naught, for Republicans, if they don’t start knocking back some of the good will Heitkamp is building while campaigning on her own.