The Midterms: North Dakota

Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.

In the open Republican at-large House seat, Kelly Armstrong, hopes to keep the seat in GOP hands against Democratic challenger, Mac Schneider.  Neither party is spending big in this relatively low cost state.  Don’t expect any changes here.

The at-large seat becomes open because incumbent Republican Kevin Cramer is running for the Senate hoping to unseat Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp.  She entered this race one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in 2018.  In 2012, Heitkamp won a narrow 1-point victory.  Skip ahead four years and Trump carried North Dakota with 63% of the vote.  Two years later, Trump remains popular in the state with a 56% approval rating.  Taken altogether, it spelled trouble for Heitkamp entering this race.

To their credit, the Cramer campaign has been on the attack while Heitkamp’s attacks on him have largely been deflected.  First, she tried portraying Cramer as corrupt because as a member of a commission that regulates utilities in the state, he accepted campaign contributions from these utilities in his House campaigns.  Those attacks went largely unnoticed.  Then he was attacked over a defense bill that would have raised salaries for uniformed personnel.  Again, crickets.  Then the old Democratic tried-and-true scare-mongering over healthcare, preexisting conditions and losing Social Security (push granny off the cliff, anyone?) accusations came.  They blame him for raising the debt $1.9 trillion as if any Democrat ever cared about the national debt.  Finally, came the veiled charges of misogyny because he has deftly criticized the #MeToo movement while simultaneously praising North Dakota women.  He also openly endorsed the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Cramer has some detractors on the Right also.  The Koch brothers backed Americans for Prosperity have refused to openly endorse Cramer over his vote to reauthorize the Import-Export bank.  Likewise, the Chamber of Commerce has held back support and endorsements.  However, where these outside groups are reluctant, the NRSC is spending heavily in this race.

For his part, Cramer has not had to play much defense while he has been no slouch on offense.  He has tied to Heitkamp to Hillary Clinton who obviously was not well-liked in North Dakota.  He has been portraying her as the one who is not supportive of veterans.  Proving it was landing blows, she had to respond with an ad answering Cramer’s attacks in this area.  Heitkamp then came out relatively early with her decision to vote against Kavanaugh.  That is Cramer’s most recent line of attack.  She is also being accused of hiding her real positions in order to make herself look moderate.  It should also be noted that after her decision to vote against Kavanaugh, she received a fundraising boost from out-of-state liberals.

Most recently, in an attempt at political damage control and trying to make sexual assault a campaign issue against Cramer, she used a letter signed by several alleged sexual assault victims.  When some of the women complained that their privacy had been breached- and some claiming they were never sexually assaulted in the first place- she had to issue an apology and retract the letter.  This whole episode a certain degree of panic has set in.

In polling, Cramer leads by an average of 5.3 points.  In the polls before the Kavanaugh circus, however, he led by about only three points.  In the polls since, he has opened up an 11 point advantage (on average).   Normally, this writer would say that an incumbent with a 47% approval rating is all but a lock for reelection.  In North Dakota, Heitkamp also sports a 43% disapproval rating.  The number of people with no opinion of her is rather small and voters seem to have made up their minds.

This writer believes that the Heitkamp campaign and she herself- whether through independent polls or some internal polling- realized her chances of victory were becoming more slim as the Kavanaugh vote approached.  Some have said that by voting against confirmation, she was playing to her liberal base back in North Dakota, such that it is.  This writer believes her vote was predicated on her belief of an inevitable loss and that she was staying in the good graces of the Democratic Party by, for lack of a better term, auditioning and adding to her resume for a potential job in some future Democratic administration, be it in DC or Fargo.

In conclusion, the GOP picks up a Senate seat here and keeps their House seat.

As of this entry, the numbers are:

US Senate 36-26 Republican, US House 93-66 Republican, and Governors 22-10 Republican.

Tomorrow: Iowa

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