With less than two months to go before the midterm elections, the fight for a crucial Senate seat in North Dakota, currently held by Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, is hotter than ever before.
Heitkamp and her opponent, at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R), are locked in an ad battle, trading barbs back and forth over which candidate is better suited to represent North Dakotans in Washington, D.C., for the next six years.
And while major polls have Heitkamp trailing her opponent, the Democratic lawmaker is not backing down. Now, she's fighting back with a new ad that attacks Cramer for allegedly being indifferent to the effects of President Donald Trump's trade war.
What does the ad say?
The ad centers on Cramer's support for Trump's trade war with China, which will hurt North Dakota's large agricultural economy because China has enacted retaliatory tariffs.
In the 30-second ad, farmer Charles Linderman calls out Cramer while standing in a soybean field.
"China is canceling their contracts to buy soybean. North Dakota is losing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business. But when you ask Kevin Cramer why he supports the trade war, he criticizes farmers," Linderman says.
The ad then plays several Cramer soundbites that are ripped from their context in which Cramer seemingly downplays the trade war's impact.
"Mr. Cramer, that trade war is costing my family a lot of money and you don't seem to care," Linderman says in response.
Trump has implemented more than $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports. In response, China passed retaliatory measures worth $34 billion that effect American agriculture products, such as soybeans, corn, wheat, and other produce.
Agriculture is the top industry in North Dakota, comprising about one-quarter of the state's workforce, according to The Associated Press.
What did Heitkamp say?
She told CNBC in an exclusive interview that Cramer is working to appease an "audience of one," referring to the president. She said that she will not be beholden to party politics if re-elected.
"I think [Cramer's] audience is an audience of one, and I think that's the president. I don't give my vote 100 percent of the time to anyone, unlike this guy. I'm going to support [Trump] when he's right, and I'm going to oppose when he's hurting the state," Heitkamp said.
She also drew a clear line between her and Cramer on tariffs, explaining how they negatively impact her constituents.
"I think the first thing when you look at trade, you haven't seen the full impact. Fundamentally everyone had hoped by this time there would have been an agreement that we would have returned to shipping soybeans to China," she said. "That hasn't happened. As time goes on and you scratch the surface, people are getting more angry."
What was the response?
Cramer's campaign referred the media to North Dakota's Republican Party for response to the ad.
"Sen. Heitkamp playing politics with our farmers and ranchers is hurting North Dakotans. Her new ad is entitled 'Blame,' but when voters reject Heitkamp's blatant politicization of the agriculture community this November, the only person she'll have to blame is herself," said Jake Wilkin, a spokesman for the North Dakota GOP.