Heitkamp Tries to Distance Herself From Elizabeth Warren While Accusing Republicans of Creating a “Boogeyman”


U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) questions Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf (not pictured) during his testimony before a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the firm's sales practices on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

It’s a common tactic, and an effective one, for political campaigns to try and tie a given opponent to the more extreme elements of their party.

Republicans are currently trying to do that to Senator Heidi Heitkamp, noting that both she and rant-happy Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren are both, you know, Democrats. “The NRSC is launching a new round of digital ads on Wednesday dinging incumbent Democrats for voting with Warren,” Politico reports.

Among the incumbent Democrats getting dinged is North Dakota’s own Senator Heidi Heitkamp. And Heitkamp’s response to the tactic is just flat-out hilarious. She simultaneously condemns the tactic, but makes sure to mention that she’s totally disagrees with Warren. Like, a lot.

“To suggest that we’re Elizabeth Warren is ridiculous, especially when you look at voting records and where we’ve been,” Heitkamp told Politico. “They need a boogeyman, and they’re trying to turn Elizabeth into a boogeyman. And I think maybe what they should worry about more is actually doing America’s work.”

First, I’m pretty sure that’s boogeyperson, Senator Heitkamp, you sexist.

Someone hasn’t been reading the latest DNC memos on political correctness and identity politics.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]“To suggest that we’re Elizabeth Warren is ridiculous, especially when you look at voting records and where we’ve been,” Heitkamp told Politico.[/mks_pullquote]

Second, if Warren isn’t a boogeyperson, then why is Heitkamp so quick to point out her voting record? If comparing Heitkamp to Warren is such a distraction, why draw the distinction?

Because Heitkamp knows it matters. Warren is toxic politically in North Dakota.

Meanwhile, the NRSC points out in a press release they sent out this morning that, by their figuring, Heitkamp has voted with Warren most of the time.

“During her time in Washington, Heidi Heitkamp has positioned herself squarely on the left, voting with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 84% of the time,” NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin says in the release (see below). “Heidi Heitkamp may try to pose as a moderate as the election approaches, but her record shows that she has more in common with Washington liberals than with North Dakota voters.”

I’m not sure I buy that number. A lot of the votes Senators take aren’t all that ideological. I mean, who cares if Heitkamp and Warren voted together on a bill to name a government building after someone?

If we look at GovTrack’s ideological ranking, which is based on bill sponsorship, we can see a more accurate picture of Heitkamp’s ideology.

Both Hoeven and Heitkamp are marked in this screenshot which encompasses data through February, 2017.

Not surprisingly, Hoeven is square in the middle of Republicans and Heitkamp is pretty far to the right of hers.

Warren, for a point of reference, is that blue dot way over on the left hand side of the image:

That picture matches up pretty well with my impression of Heitkamp and Hoeven’s ideological positions relative to the rest of the Senate. Hoeven is quite moderate among Republicans, while Heitkamp is quite conservative among Democrats.

This is a tricky political game for Heitakmp, though. She can’t afford to alienate too many of North Dakota’s right-of-center voters, which is why she (correctly) draws a distinction between her voting record and Warren’s. On the other hand, she also can’t afford to alienate too many people in her progressive base by throwing Warren under the bus.

There aren’t enough progressive voters in North Dakota to give Heitkamp a victory on the statewide ballot, but there are enough to force a loss.