Planned Parenthood Won’t Be Seen Supporting Their Friend Heidi Heitkamp in 2018


FILE -- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), exits the lobby of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, Dec. 2, 2016. Though Donald Trump has yet to name a Democrat to his Cabinet, Heitkamp is said to be a top contender to lead the Department of Agriculture — a posting that would also trigger a special election to fill her Senate seat. (Sam Hodgson/The New York Times)

It’s not that Senator Heidi Heitkamp has done anything to upset the folks at Planned Parenthood.

After all, the Senator could be seen high-fiving Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on the Senate floor (yes, it was a high-five) after helping to vote down an abortion limitation that’s the law in all but six countries around the world. And local Planned Parenthood activists have been attacking Heitkamp’s (then likely) opponent Kevin Cramer for nearly a year now.

But, in a tough re-election year, Heitkamp can’t be seen being too friendly with the organization. So as Planned Parenthood hits the campaign trail for vulnerable Democrats around the country, they probably won’t be focusing on North Dakota:

Add Planned Parenthood to the list of organizations looking to take advantage of President Trump’s low approval ratings in the 2018 midterm elections.

The organization is not new to the rough-and-tumble of electoral politics — and has often itself become a top issue for Republicans looking to slash federal funding for the organization — but this year Planned Parenthood Votes and Planned Parenthood Action Fund will launch their biggest-ever push to try to tip the balance in Congress and in key states. …

Planned Parenthood’s target list of states includes Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which were instrumental in Trump’s 2016 victory. The others where Planned Parenthood will pour in money and resources are Arizona, Florida, Minnesota and Nevada — each of which has hotly contested races.

Notably, states so far not on the Planned Parenthood target list are two of the more conservative states, each of which has an incumbent Democratic senator on the ballot this year: Missouri and North Dakota. Both are states Trump won easily and where protecting abortion rights is a more difficult case to make with a more conservative populace.

At the Washington Examiner, speculation is that Planned Parenthood could be trying to avoid doing more harm than good for Heitkamp in North Dakota. Or maybe the organization doesn’t see Heitkamp’s re-election campaign as a worthy place to expend political dollars and resources:

The same day CNN listed McCaskill’s seat as the most likely to flip from Democrats to Republicans, Planned Parenthood announced the first round of states set to benefit from a $20 million spending dump on behalf of pro-choice politicians this year. Missouri was not on the list, nor was North Dakota, where Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is facing a tough battle against Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. As the Washington Examinerreported Thursday, the $20 million will be spread across Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, funding advertisements and door-to-door campaigning.

Perhaps Planned Parenthood is keeping its distance to protect McCaskill and Heitkamp, whose voters may be less inclined to support lawmakers affiliated with the controversial organization. On the other hand, it could signal the group’s perception that both races are bad bets.

This sort of thing is one of the most interesting aspects of politics in North Dakota. While Republicans here can proudly tout their affiliation with, say, President Donald Trump or the NRA because those people/organizations largely appeal to North Dakota voters, Democrats like Heitkamp must distance themselves from the left wing counterparts.

Remember that in the 2012 cycle, when Heitkamp was campaigning for her first term in the Senate, she didn’t even attend her political party’s national convention and described herself as an “independent,” as opposed to a Democrat, in her campaign ads.