North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) won a decisive election in 2012 to begin her first term in the Senate. Unfortunately, she appears to have her work cut out for her if she wants to remain in Congress beyond just one term.
And in a crucially important midterm election cycle, Democrats cannot afford to lose control of the seat if they hope to have any chance of taking over the Senate, which is already a difficult proposition.
Why does Heitkamp stand to lose?
If there is one thing Heitkamp has going against her it's that President Donald Trump was the overwhelming favorite of North Dakotans in 2016. In fact, Trump won the state over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a whopping 36 points.
It wasn't even close. Trump won 63 percent of the vote while Clinton won just 27.2 percent.
Unfortunately for Heitkamp, she backed the wrong candidate, and enthusiastically so. Her Clinton adoration has allowed her likely opponent in the general election, Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, to seize on the vulnerability, reminding North Dakota residents Heitkamp supported a candidate for the White House that they so overwhelmingly rejected.
Cramer released a political ad Tuesday that put Heitkamp's unabashed Clinton support in his crosshairs. The ad quoted Heitkamp saying of Clinton during the 2016 election: "We're supporting Hillary Clinton because she is going to be one of the greatest presidents of the United States of America."
"Hillary lost, but Heidi remains a reliable vote for these liberal ideas: Repealing your tax cuts. Keeping Obamacare. Permitting late term abortions," the ad's narrator says. "When you think about it, Heidi consistently votes against our North Dakota values."
Is Heitkamp pushing back?
Realizing her proximity to Clinton and the liberal agenda will work against her in November, Heitkamp is working to distance herself from Clinton.
In March, Heitkamp was asked when Clinton would finally "ride off into the sunset." Her response? "Not soon enough," she said.
What do the polls show?
Even though polling has yet to ramp up for the race, a Gravis poll released in February shows registered voters are torn between Heitkamp and Cramer. At the time, 43 percent said they support Heitkamp, while 40 percent said they support Cramer. The rest were undecided.
What are race predications?
Political expert Larry Sabato's "Crystal Ball" predicts North Dakota will be a "toss up" in November, meaning it's a very close race that either Cramer or Heitkamp could win.
Why is this Senate seat so important?
With the partisan lines being so close in the Senate — Republicans have a one seat majority — every seat matters. If Democrats want to retake majority control in the upper house, they cannot afford to lose control of Heitkamp's seat.
And unfortunately for Democrats, they will have to play defense in November. That's because 23 of the 33 Senate seats up for grabs currently belong to Democrats, while just eight belong to Republicans and the other two to Independents.