Heitkamp scram­bles to keep Se­nate seat

Anti-Ka­vanaugh vote hurts her in GOP-heavy N.D.

The Palm Beach Post - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Thomas Beau­mont and Dave Kolpack

FARGO, N.D. — Heidi Heitkamp squeezed dozens of hands and posed for pic­tures with col­lege stu­dents at North Dakota State Uni­ver­sity re­cently, bub­bling with char­ac­ter­is­tic ex­u­ber­ance that be­lied the Demo­cratic sen­a­tor’s un­cer­tain fu­ture.

“I want every­body to just do some­thing for me,” Heitkamp said, her voice hoarse. “Every­body stand up! I want you to reach as high as you can. Now, I want you to reach about six inches higher. That’s what we’ve got to do to win! We’ve got to go higher.”

An al­ready ten­u­ous bid for a sec­ond term has taken on new ur­gency for Heitkamp since she voted against Brett Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion to the U.S. Supreme Court. Heitkamp is scram­bling to find her foot­ing amid fears that the race against Repub­li­can Rep. Kevin Cramer is slip­ping away, and with it Democrats’ slim hopes of a Se­nate ma­jor­ity.

“Are we fac­ing some head­winds? Yep,” Heitkamp said. “But I’ve faced head­winds be­fore, and won.”

Heitkamp has been bet­ting for months that her im­age as an in­de­pen­dent col­lab­o­ra­tor — some­one who could go along with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, but chal­lenge him when needed— could carry her to an­other term in GOPheavy North Dakota.

Trail­ing in polls, in­clud­ing her own cam­paign’s, with barely three weeks until Elec­tion Day, Heitkamp plans to essen­tially camp out in North Dakota, es­pe­cially its more po­lit­i­cally in­de­pen­dent eastern side.

She plans to lean harder into the same strat­egy, re­ly­ing heav­ily on the eco­nomic hit her heavy agri­cul­tural and man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­port state has taken un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s es­ca­lat­ing trade war with China. She calls it the “dark­est cloud on the hori­zon” for North Dakota.

Cast­ing her­self as a cham­pion of farm­ers and ex­port-re­liant busi­nesses and work­ers, she is us­ing the is­sue to step up her months-long crit­i­cism of Cramer’s un­fal­ter­ing al­le­giance to Trump, ar­gu­ing it comes at a cost to North Dakotans.

Heitkamp also is weigh­ing whether to launch a di­rect ad­ver­tis­ing at­tack on Cramer for of­ten awk­ward com­ments on sen­si­tive sub­jects, es­pe­cially re­lated to Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion. Cramer down­played Cal­i­for­nia pro­fes­sor Chris­tine Blasey Ford’s al­le­ga­tion that Ka­vanaugh sex­u­ally as­saulted her in high school, say­ing the episode fell short of a rape and didn’t in­volve a work­place su­pe­rior and sub­or­di­nate.

He later re­ferred to the #MeToo move­ment as “this move­ment to­ward vic­tim­iza­tion,” and re­ferred to his mother, wife and daugh­ters as “tough peo­ple.”

Cramer later said: “That was just a broad state­ment about our whole cul­ture. Every­body’s got to be a vic­tim now.”

At­tack­ing Cramer over his Ka­vanaugh com­ments would be a risky gam­bit in a state where Heitkamp lost sup­port from in­de­pen­dent men turned off by the con­tin­u­ing dis­cus­sion of the al­le­ga­tions against Ka­vanaugh, but has signed on hun­dreds of new cam­paign vol­un­teers since she voted against him.

“I guess you could say, ‘Are you per­pet­u­at­ing the dis­cus­sion?’ I don’t know,” Heitkamp said. “When peo­ple say things that are hurt­ful to vic­tims, to peo­ple who have suf­fered in­cred­i­ble vic­tim­iza­tion, I’m go­ing to call it out and I don’t care what the con­se­quences are.”


Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who is seek­ing re-elec­tion, cam­paigns along the route of the Uffda Day pa­rade in Rut­land, N.D., on Oct. 7. Trail­ing in polls, Heitkamp plans to essen­tially camp out in North Dakota.

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