It’s safe to move North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer from the “undecided” to “likely to run” column for the 2018 U.S. Senate race.
According to multiple sources Cramer will be meeting with President Donald Trump on Tuesday this week to discuss the matter, and the indications I’m getting almost universally from Republican political circles is that Cramer will almost certainly be in the Senate race against incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.
Cramer has claimed before that Trump is encouraging him to run for the Senate. He has also been increasing his visibility in the national media. Cramer was on Fox News on Friday discussing the Congressional investigation into the FBI’s handling of the now-infamous Trump Dossier, and I’m told Cramer will be appearing on CNN on New Year’s Day.
Cramer has also been touting internal polling which he says shows him defeating Heitkamp in a potential matchup, though take that with a grain of salt because it’s really early in the election cycle and he also isn’t releasing any of that polling:
— Rep. Kevin Cramer (@RepKevinCramer) December 30, 2017
Remember, too, that Cramer is undoubtedly getting a lot of pressure from Republicans nationally to run. Heitkamp is a vulnerable Democrat running for re-election in a state Trump won in a landslide. If Republicans don’t put up a serious contender that’s not just bad for them politically in North Dakota but it would soon become a national talking point for Democrats.
Case in point, this national Associated Press story from earlier this month.
When Cramer makes the move (and I think he will) it will be interesting to see what sort of impact it will have on other races on the 2018 ballot. Republican candidates outside of state Senator Tom Campbell, whose campaign hasn’t inspired a lot of enthusiasm so far, have been reticent to challenge Heitkamp likely because of millions in mostly out of state dollars she’s already accumulated in her campaign coffers and her reputation as a ruthless, vicious campaigner.
Anyone going up against Heitkamp can expect to have the Senator’s various allies and mouthpieces out to destroy them. That’s a daunting reality even for campaign veterans given North Dakota’s normally more pacific political climate.
Campbell has been telling other Republicans that if Cramer runs for the Senate he’ll switch his race to the House. But there he’ll likely face a challenge from other Republicans who find a run for an open House seat more palatable than a campaign against a sitting incumbent.