According to a NBC News editor, Democratic North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp will be meeting with Republican President-elect Donald Trump tomorrow:
Among Trump's meetings tomorrow—DEM Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Cabinet interview? Agriculture? Would hand GOP another Senate seat.
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) December 1, 2016
Apparently the Trump team is considering Heitkamp for a position in the administration:
Trump spox: Heitkamp 'very highly recommended, very qualified, proven leader, would be asset in any role or capacity' Mtg tmrw @agripulse
— Philip Brasher (@PhilipBrasher) December 1, 2016
This is quite the development given how much effort the North Dakota Democratic Party put into painting Trump as an evil, racist villain. I’m not sure there was a talking point from the state’s Democrats that was deployed more frequently than an invocation of Trump’s comments and scurrilous campaign.
It’s all the more bizarre given that Heitkamp was an early and ardent supporter of Trump’s campaign trail nemesis Hillary Clinton. Heitkamp signed a letter with other Senators endorsing Clinton for the presidency way back in 2012.
But Trump got over 60 percent of the vote in North Dakota, and Clinton got less than 30 percent, so perhaps that political reality has entered Heitkamp’s thinking?
Heitkamp has said in the past that she’d work with the Trump administration, but meeting with the President-elect before he’s in office is something more than that, particularly when you have the Trump team pushing speculation that Heitkamp could be in the cabinet.
That seems unlikely. If Heitkamp made that move not only would she enrage her fellow Democrats, but she’d also be giving up a Senate seat to Republicans. State law passed in 2015 would require that the vacancy be filled by a special election unless the vacancy occurs within 95 days of the end of the Senate term. Heitkamp is up for re-election in 2018.
It seems unlikely that the state’s Democrats could recruit a candidate capable of holding the seat.
I’d be very surprised if Heitkamp actually took a cabinet position in the Trump administration. Rather, I think she’s using this opportunity to burnish her bona fides as a red state pragmatist because she’s probably going to run for re-election.