It’s not exactly breaking news to say that President Donald Trump will be actively campaigning in North Dakota this year. He visited our state during his 2016 campaign. He visited last year to promote tax reform. Vice President Mike Pence has visited the state, and as colleague John Hageman reported last month, our state has been a popular destination for members of Trump’s cabinet.
Besides Congressman Kevin Cramer, an early supporter of Trump’s campaign in 2016, was pushed by the President to challenge incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Of course the President is going to be in the state campaigning. NDGOP officials have told me that they expect the President to stump in the state at least twice during the campaign season.
But if we needed any more confirmation that Trump has made defeating Heitkamp a priority, consider this report based on statements made by Trump Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah:
Trump intends to involve himself in US Senate races in those states where Democrats have blocked his nominees, RajShah45 says on @93wibc in Indianapolis.
Shah named Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp in ND and Joe Manchin in WV.
"It part of the planning," Shah said.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) May 2, 2018
It’s interesting that opposing confirmations is the state reason for opposing Heitkamp. According to the New York Times, while Heitkamp voted against Trump’s nominees more often than any Republican member of the Senate, she was definitely one of the Democrats most friendly to the President’s picks. Among the Dems only Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted against Trump’s nomination less frequently.
As for Heitkamp’s overall voting record, she’s again one of the most pro-Trump Democrats according to tracking done by FiveThirtyEight. Again only Manchin and Senator Doug Jones of Alabama (who was just elected in a December special election) are more Trump-friendly than Heitkamp in the Democratic caucus.
Heitkamp is still significantly more anti-Trump than every Senate Republican – Rand Paul of Kentucky votes least with Trump among Republicans, and he’s at 74.6 percent to Heitkamp’s 55.7 percent – but she is without a doubt one of the most Trump-friendly Democrats in the Senate.
Of course, that has its risks for Heitkamp too as columnist Mike Jacobs pointed out during a radio interview with me yesterday. He noted that Heitkamp’s feints to the right could dampen enthusiasm among Democrats in North Dakota.
While there really aren’t that many Democrats in North Dakota, Heitkamp probably can’t afford to lose any votes given her narrow victory in 2012.