Democratic incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp, from the deep red state of North Dakota, is now in an uphill battle for re-election against GOP Rep. Ken Cramer. The latest poll from Fox News shows Heitkamp trailing Cramer by 12 points. The survey was taken before her vote against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was revealed.
On the surface, Heitkamp would appear to be committing political suicide by opposing Trump’s choice for the court. Trump won North Dakota by 36 points in 2016 and the president has a 64% approval rating in the state.
In addition, Cramer’s voters are becoming more enthusiastic about supporting him as opposed to Heitkamp’s voters. Nearly 9 in 10 (87 percent) of his supporters are sure of their vote, compared to 8 in 10 Heitkamp backers (79 percent).
But despite Cramer’s obvious advantages, Heitcamp’s support among Democrats is stronger than Cramer’s is with Republicans. In the Fox poll, “more Democrats back Heitkamp (94 percent) than Republicans back Cramer (87 percent), but in a state so red that Trump won by nearly 40 points, that isn’t enough.”
In a turnout election like midterms, getting your voters to the polls spells the difference between victory and defeat. Heitkamp’s “yes” vote on Kavanaugh would have won her few Republican votes and lost her many more Democratic voters.
Several prominent Senate Democrats have sent fundraising letters to North Dakota Dems asking them to reward Heitkamp for “voting for her values”:
Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, a pair of possible 2020 presidential contenders, and Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire blasted out separate fundraising emails Friday on behalf of Ms. Heitkamp, commending her for putting “country before politics” by voting “no” on Judge Kavanaugh.
“Heidi is voting for her values regardless of any right-wing attacks that could further jeopardize her reelection campaign in North Dakota — a state that President Trump won by double digits,” Mr. Booker said in his request. “Now we need to stand up for Heidi and help her fight back to ensure her Senate seat remains blue.”
Democrats know their hopes of flipping control of the Senate would be all but dashed if Ms. Heitkamp falls in her re-election battle against Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, who has accused her of selling out North Dakota voters.
If Republican voters in North Dakota are in a mood to punish Democrats for their treatment of Kavanaugh and the craziness surrounding his confirmation battle, Heitkamp is probably toast anyway.
So realistically, her best chance of winning in November was to not offend her base of Democratic support and hope that her “vote of conscience” would motivate a few more of her supporters to show up to vote.
If that sounds like a hope and a prayer, you’re probably right.