Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) is moving closer to the center — and President Donald Trump — ahead of this November's midterm election. Many national observers believe the race for Heitkamp's Senate seat will be one of the election's tightest.
President Trump seems to welcome Heitkamp's move toward the GOP, in spite of the possibility the GOP could take Heitkamp's seat, with Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) expected to mount a strong challenge in the general election.
What are the details?
In Heitkamp's second political ad of the campaign, she touts her reputation as a "conservative Democrat," brags about endorsements from Republican senators and gloats about voting across the aisle.
"She led the fight to open up markets for North Dakota oil. Republicans say she's 'stronger than battery acid' and 'interested in getting things done.' And newspapers [call her] a 'rare senator' who 'often votes against party,'" the ad's narrator says. "The most conservative Democrat in Washington."
"I'm Heidi Heitkamp and I approve this message, because when it comes to fighting for North Dakota, I take 'battery acid' as a compliment," Heitkamp says in the ad, which features her removing a car battery from an old pickup truck.
Heitkamp, 62, has been moving toward the center for some time. As a Politico story published Wednesday detailed, Heitkamp:
- Was next to Trump last week during a bill signing while Cramer stood awkwardly to the side.
- Maintains "a running list of the dozen-plus meetings Heitkamp has had with Trump and his top advisers since the 2016 election."
- Has been praised numerous times by Trump, even meeting with him at Trump Tower during the presidential transition.
- Told Politico she has a "friendly relationship. I have a very important working relationship" with Trump.
Does Trump actually support Cramer?
According to the Politico story, it was the president who personally recruited Cramer to challenge Heitkamp, believing he was the North Dakota politician who had the best chance of taking her seat.
"The president leaned on him very hard," Gary Emineth, a former North Dakota GOP chairman, told Politico.
Trump's administration has also taken steps to assure the 57-year-old Cramer that he has the full support of the White House, including maintaining regular contact with him and promising that Trump will host a campaign rally for him later this year.
What does Cramer say about Heitkamp's posturing?
"Her trying to cozy up to Donald Trump has resulted in good votes. But every time she tries to become more like me, it’s more flattering to me than it is to her," he told Politico.
In response to a question about Heitkamp's Trump-embrace, a spokesman for Cramer's campaign told TheBlaze:
It’s actually pretty funny to watch and it’s not just Senator Heitkamp, it is the entire North Dakota Democrat Party. Six months ago, Heidi and her party were attacking President Trump at every turn. Today, they brag about being buddies with the President. This flip flop has to be driving her base crazy.
Let’s be clear, Senator Heitkamp is not actually moving to the center. She is only pretending to be a conservative, but it's awfully hard for her to run away from her liberal voting record. Let’s not forget that she voted with President Obama 88 percent of the time. She voted to fund sanctuary cities and to allow late term abortions. Senator Heitkamp even voted against the tax cuts and several important Trump judicial appointments.
So no matter how hard Senator Heitkamp tries to imitate Kevin and align with the President, her voting record will always tell the real story.