Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s Voting Pattern Moves Away From Democrats the Closer She Gets to Election Day


Senator Heidi Heitkamp at Cirrus Aircrafts' celebration Tuesday, December 20 in Grand Forks, N.D. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

Senator Heidi Heitkamp invests a lot of time in cultivating an image of herself as a centrist. A moderate Democrat.

That’s why Heitkamp is playing patty cake with President Donald Trump, a man most of her Democratic base sees as a tyrant.

But Republicans, and the NDGOP specifically, tell a different story. They argue that Heitkamp claiming to be a moderate is a put on. A political strategy aimed at masking a far more liberal voting record.

Based on data pertaining to Heitkamp’s voting patterns put together by Congressional Quarterly (behind a pay wall, unfortunately), the Republicans may have a point. During her first year in the Senate after the 2012 election Senator Heitkamp had a very liberal voting record. She cast her vote with President Barack Obama’s position 97 percent of the time, and in unity with her fellow Democrats 90 percent of the time.

But as Heitkamp has gotten closer to her re-election campaign in the 2018 cycle she’s been moving her voting pattern to the right and away from other Democrats. By 2016, the last year of Obama’s term, Heitkamp was voting with the President just 73 percent of the time and in unity with other Democrats just 61 percent of the time.

Here’s the trend line I put together based on the CQ data:

What do we think? Is this just a coincidence that Heitkamp gets less liberal in her voting patterns the closer she gets to re-election? Or is this calculation?

My bet is on the latter. Heitkamp, elected from one of the most deeply Republican states in the union, could afford to vote more to the left at the beginning of her six year term but definitely cannot be voting so far to the left in proximity to an election. When voters might remember.