North Dakota was always going to be tough for Democrats. It’s a deep red state that voted for Donald Trump by 36-points in 2016. Incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp has always taken a moderate tone, on most matters, and she has survived well despite being out of step with the state on several key issues. That status quo, however, looks to be fading for Heitkamp as Republican challenger Kevin Cramer has opened up a double-digit lead going into the final stretch.
Report from The Hill on what happened in North Dakota and why Heitkamp fell so hard and so fast:
Incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) trails Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) by 16 points in the North Dakota race, according to a new poll released Wednesday.
The Gray Television poll gives Cramer a 56 percent to 40 percent lead among likely voters over Heitkamp, well outside of the sample’s 3.84 point margin of error.
Cramer’s lead has grown since the last Gray Television poll conducted in September which showed him 10 points ahead.
Those with unfavorable opinions of Heitkamp have skyrocketed from 41 percent in the previous poll to 52 percent now.
James Henson, a partner in Strategic Research Associates, which conducted the poll for Gray Television, said that Heitkamp’s ‘no’ vote for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh may explain some of this turn.
“Sen. Heitkamp appears to have been hurt by her vote against Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as by subsequent campaign missteps widely covered in the media,” he said. The U.S. Senate voted on Kavanaugh’s confirmation in the period between the two polls.
Many pundits are comparing the fates of Heitkamp and Sen. Joe Manchin, the Democratic incumbent in West Virginia. Manchin voted in favor of Kavanaugh’s appointment, bucking his party leadership in the process and softening resistance from Republicans in his home state. Heitkamp, on the other hand, proceeded to vote against Kavanaugh despite polling which indicated wide support for his confirmation in North Dakota. The end result, Manchin is likely headed for an easy re-election while Heitkamp is down double-digits against her Republican challenger.
You can’t blame Heitkamp for voting her conscience and allowing the chips to fall. There’s no question that she knew a vote against Kavanaugh would make her re-election efforts more difficult, but she stuck to her guns and voted him down. Now, North Dakota voters get to make their judgment on her judgment, and they seem to be leaning away from her.
The recent polling for Heitkamp has been brutal, and the RNC recently canceled all their spending in the state since it looks like it’s heading their direction:
Heitkamp’s troubles aren’t only limited to her Kavanaugh vote. She recently made a grave error by taking out a newspaper ad that included the names of sexual assault survivors without their permission. The Washington Post reports:
The ad was fashioned as an open letter to Rep. Kevin Cramer, Heitkamp’s Republican opponent, criticizing comments he made during the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
In a statement Tuesday, Heitkamp (N.D.) said that her campaign “recently discovered that several of the women’s names who were provided to us did not authorize their names to be shared or were not survivors of abuse.”
“I deeply regret this mistake and we are in the process of issuing a retraction, personally apologizing to each of the people impacted by this and taking the necessary steps to ensure this never happens again,” the statement said.
That’s a terrible error considering her vote against Kavanaugh was essentially a vote in favor of protecting female abuse victims and affirming that they need support and care. To turn around days later and accidentally expose the names of abuse victims in a political ad is incompetent and may well put the women outed in more danger.
Unless something changes between now and Election Day, Republicans will be banking a Senate pick up in North Dakota.