The narrative around Donald Trump is that he’s a hateful racist and a misogynist and, as such, isn’t fit to live in the White House.
That seems to be all Democrats can talk about, particularly here in North Dakota where U.S. House candidate Chase Iron Eyes and Senate candidate Eliot Glassheim can’t seem to talk about anything else.
In fact, when Trump came to North Dakota, what got far more attention than his substantive comments about energy policy was a comment he made calling Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.” Because teasing a woman who apparently pretended to be a Native American to fill out her academic resume is racist, I guess.
Inconvenient for the narrative, though, is that sometimes some Native Americans say they like Trump. Case in point Gene McCowan, human resources director for the Trenton Indian Service Area, which governs the six counties in North Dakota and Montana for the Turtle Mountain Chippewa. He says he’s leaning towards supporting Trump because they want to bring the oil jobs back:
“Twenty percent of our people have been laid off or seen cuts in salaries and it’s going to get worse,” McCowan said, adding that he will likely support Trump as the best hope of reversing the crisis.
Trenton is 14 miles southwest of oil boom town Williston. Until a year or so ago, locals were making $25-$30 an hour. Now, McCowan said, the number of people needing food stamps has risen 40 percent.
This is just one guy, of course. An anecdote. But maybe it explains why Senator Heidi Heitkamp – the only Democrat in North Dakota to win a statewide election since 2008 – has largely avoided some of the vicious anti-Trump rhetoric coming from her state party.
Say what you want about Heitkamp, but she’s an astute politician. Perhaps she recognizes that for most North Dakotans, even those in demographics that are typically loyal to Democrats, Trump would probably a better candidate on the sort of pocketbook, kitchen table issues that really matter.
I think Trump will likely win North Dakota easily, like pretty much every other Republican presidential candidate since LBJ. But Democrats might want to be careful about making 2016 a referendum on Trump. He may be able to win over voters from constituencies you wouldn’t expect to support him, or Republicans generally.