If North Dakota’s Democrats were hoping President Donald Trump’s often erratic leadership in the White House would give them an opening for some electoral gains this election cycle they should think again.
According to a recently released Gallup Poll, Trump’s approval in North Dakota is at 59 percent. That’s the second highest level of approval in the nation, coming in just below the 60 percent approval the President enjoys in West Virginia and just above the 57 percent approval in South Dakota.
It’s conventional political wisdom that the political party of the President sees some electoral setbacks in the first midterm election after inauguration. That wisdom is bolstered this cycle by Trump’s weak national approval numbers. It’s easy for analysts and gadflies to assume that Trump’s low approval numbers nationally will translate into trouble for Republicans locally.
I don’t think that’s going to be the case in North Dakota. On election day Trump earned almost 63 percent of the statewide vote in North Dakota. That’s within the margin of error for Gallup’s polling.
Meaning the President is about as popular in North Dakota as he was on election day. When our state’s Democrats took a shellacking at the polls.
It’s still a long way to election day 2018, to be sure. This poll, like any poll, is just a snapshot in time. A lot can change in the coming months.
But if North Dakota’s Democrats are hoping that Trump’s job performance will deliver them an opportunity to win some elections for a change, they’d better change their plans. If anything, the anti-Trump hysteria from national Democrats is going to be more hindrance than help when it comes to winning elections here.
The only North Dakota Democrat immune from all of this is Senator Heidi Heitkamp, mostly because of the largely cooperative stance she’s taken with Trump. Remember that Trump considered Heitkamp for a cabinet position, and Heitkamp has mostly supported Trump’s nominees and policy agenda.
This has angered some in Heitkamp’s party – when she was dismissive of the left-wing “resistance” at least one of the state’s prominent Democrats said they were through with her – but Heitkamp doesn’t need progressives to win in North Dakota.
She needs to win over independents and moderate Republicans. She’ll throw the progressives a bone now and then. Her thoroughly partisan stance on health care reform is an example of that. But by and large, the path for re-election for Heitkamp in North Dakota lays with adopting a political posture that would make her a Republican in any other state.