For many North Dakotans, the anticipation of President Donald Trump’s visit to a Mandan oil refinery in the Peace Garden State was big. And while the topic of tax reform was expected, there was an unexpected moment that I’m not sure even those in attendance fully appreciated in terms of potential implications.
At the conclusion of his remarks today, President Trump referred to the elected officials in attendance as “great people” and “100 percent” for North Dakotans. But in addition to the entourage of Senator John Hoeven, Congressman Kevin Cramer, Governor Doug Burgum, and Lt. Governor Brent Sanford – all Republicans – the President included the endangered Democrat Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
Recognizing the fact that many might wonder, “What’s she doing up here?”, Trump referred to Heitkamp as a “good woman” and gave her a friendly handshake. A Washington Post article saw this as a “potentially powerful advertisement for her reelection campaign next fall”.
But with all due respect to the Washington Post, it’s a possibility that the effect of this exchange will be quite the opposite. My reason for believing this is based on additional remarks made by Trump earlier on in his speech and the context of his “good woman” remarks, which included a message to Heitkamp and was as follows:
“But I’ll tell you what: Good woman, and I think we’ll have your support. I hope we’ll have your support.”
While referring earlier on to the possibility of his tax reform passing, the President also made this statement:
“It can happen. Are you listening, Heidi? Yes, Heidi’s listening.”
And that comment was followed by this gem as a message to all of Congress:
“Do your job to deliver for America or find a new job. Do something else. Just do something else.”
Considering all of this together, this may well have been a brilliant political move by Trump. After all, the President knows very well that he is quite popular among North Dakota’s voters– with a 59% approval rating at last check. This could have very well been Trump’s way of telling Heitkamp to climb on board the Trump Train or risk losing her seat in Washington.
Yes, what the Washington Post sees as a positive for Heitkamp may have actually made her defeat a greater possibility.