Here at the dawn of what could be a very, very tough re-election campaign Senator Heidi Heitkamp has been cozying up to the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce.
The impetus for said coziness is her support (seemingly at odds with her recent voting record) for regulatory reforms the business community wants. Because to win in November of next year Senator Heitkamp needs to be perceived not so much as a Democrat but as a moderate Republican who just happens to caucus with the other party.
Part of that move, it seems, is to distance herself from #TheResistance, the progressive movement aimed at undermining and delegitimizing the Trump presidency.
Remember, over 60 percent of North Dakotans voted for Trump. His brand of populist, right-of-center politics resonates in North Dakota in a big way.
During a meeting alongside the North Dakota Chamber yesterday, Heitkamp was asked about opposition from other Democrats to her regulatory reform bill, and her answer veered into a condemnation of #TheResistance:
“The thing is that there are two things that are happening that are really challenging us,” Heitkamp said. “One is the resist movement. Which is nothing. Just resist, right? Don’t do anything, just resist.”
“I think that’s a waste of my time, if all I’m there for is to resist,” she continued. “That’s not persuasive.”
This is probably smart politics for Heitkamp, though a bit hypocritical given the millions she’s taken in from left wing contributors across the nation, including Senator Elizabeth Warren who is widely seen as a leader of #TheResistance.
While her comments may alienate some North Dakota Democrats, and she’ll probably get some backlash from that quarter, it’s not really those voters she needs to convince.
Last week I wrote about an electoral math problem North Dakota Democrats face heading into this election cycle. Their share of the North Dakota electorate, which wasn’t all that large to begin with, was depleted by voters defecting to Republicans. From 2012 to 2016 – both presidential election cycles, mind you – the Democrats saw turnout for their candidates in North Dakota decline nearly 40 percent. In the 2012 cycle, which was the last time President Barack Obama was on the ballot, Democrat candidates for the Legislature and partisan statewide office together collected over 1.16 million cumulative votes.
In 2016 that number dipped to just 702,856.
This was hardly a general election phenomena either. The ratio of voters picking the Republican ballot in last year’s June primary, compared to voters picking the Democratic ballot, has skyrocketed:
The obstacle Heitkamp faces is not the very far left remnants of the North Dakota Democratic party. Her problem is luring back all the moderates who have decamped to the NDGOP.
A good way to do that is to rip the progressives while sitting in a room with the Chamber of Commerce.