Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, recently declared North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) as the "most vulnerable" Senate incumbent of the 2018 midterm elections.
Unfortunately for Heitkamp, her Republican colleague is not the only person who recognizes her vulnerabilities, and her opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R), is on the attack.
What's going on?
It takes just a quick Google search to understand that Heitkamp is not in a good position heading into the final two months before the Nov. 6 election. Some recent headlines stated:
- National Review: "Heidi Heitkamp Is Her Own Worst Enemy"
- New York Times: "A Supreme Court Vote Is Just One of Heidi Heitkamp’s Headaches"
- NPR: "Vulnerable Democrat, Sen. Heitkamp Faces Tough Re-Election Bid"
Among Heitkamp's many roadblocks to re-election is the fact that she's a moderate Democrat not closely aligning with her party in a state President Donald Trump won by nearly 36 points in 2016. And while she has been close with Trump, who even considered her for a Cabinet position, the president endorsed Cramer earlier this year.
To boot, Heitkamp only narrowly won election in 2012 — by less than one point, in fact.
North Dakotans overwhelmingly demand their national representatives support Trump's "Make America Great Again" agenda. Unfortunately for Heitkamp, who is one of Trump's most supportive congressional Democrats, she cannot align herself with Trump for election; she has to hold true to her Democratic Party values, which she has done time and time again by voting against the GOP's big ticket legislative accomplishments in Congress.
Those votes — against tax reform, against Obamacare repeal, against border wall funding, and against a significant number of Trump's judicial nominees — are paramount in Heitkamp's uphill battle. That's because this election is the first time she will ever have to run on a legislative record as her previous political experience was in North Dakota's executive branch.
Meanwhile, Cramer, who has an edge with voter recognition as North Dakota's lone representative, is a widely popular lawmaker. In fact, he won nearly 70 percent of the vote in his bid for re-election in 2016.
And while the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity withdrew support for Cramer last month, public polling is on his side. The most recent major poll found Cramer 4 points ahead of his opponent, 48 percent to 44 percent.
The lead has allowed Cramer to go on the offensive.
What's he doing?
In Cramer's most recent ad, first shared with National Review, he launches a broadside campaign against Heitkamp for her support of "sanctuary city policies."
"Our nation has a serious problem with illegal immigration," Cramer says in the ad. "I voted against funding sanctuary cities because federal tax dollars shouldn’t go to cities that hide illegal immigrants, especially those who commit violent crimes.
"It’s hard to understand why Heidi Heitkamp, who is a former attorney general, voted to fund sanctuary cities that ignore the rule of law and put our citizens and law-enforcement officers at risk," he adds. "I don't believe that breaking the law deserves an award of our tax dollars."