Just two days ago, I wrote that Congressman Kevin Cramer was on the brink of throwing his hat in the ring for a run at U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp. We had been anticipating an announcement for some time. We were wrong.
In the end, President Trump’s support wasn’t enough to convince him. This morning Congressman Cramer pulled back from the brink and announced his intentions to forego a run at Senate and instead run for re-election in the U.S. House. It’s a safe move. After all, his opponent is former Democratic State Representative Ben Hanson (District 16). Never heard of him? Yeah, most everyone else hasn’t either. He lost re-election to the State House in 2016 by a wide margin.
Undoubtedly, Cramer’s seniority on the Energy and Commerce Committee – the oldest standing committee in the U.S. House of Representatives – was a key factor in his decision-making process. Cramer feels this is the most important committee assignment in the House. And with three senior members of the committee not returning after this year, his seniority will matter even more.
There’s no doubt Cramer’s decision is disappointing for some. Many Republicans looked to him as the best – and perhaps last – hope of the NDGOP putting up a candidate that could beat Heitkamp. Unless some unexpected candidate jumps in, it appears that task will fall to State Senator Tom Campbell (R – District 19)– who some see as ill-equipped in a head to head matchup versus the Democratic incumbent.
Aside from Campbell’s perceived flaws as a candidate, there is also the feeling that Cramer’s decision will affect down-ticket races for Republicans.
But considering all of this, is there an even bigger issue at stake here? That being the fact that the NDGOP has completely struck out in drafting a candidate of choice to take on Heitkamp. Strike one was with Western North Dakota Geologist, Kathleen Neset. Strike two was with Border States Electric CEO, Tammy Miller. And strike three is now Kevin Cramer.
This is bad news for the NDGOP. This was perceived as a time of vulnerability for Heitkamp and it seems nobody they courted wanted to step up to go toe to toe with her– with the exception of Tom Campbell. Kudos to him for that.
The Republicans need this seat. But at the moment, barring what some would characterize as a miracle in which the gentleman Tom Campbell beats a shrewd politician like Heidi Heitkamp, it appears that she has the upper hand. And, unfortunately, it’ll take a lot more than the $500,000 plus Campbell has spent so faron campaigning to change that. Especially since she already has a war chest of over $3.76 million.
In the beginning, this race had all the makings of being an exciting one, with what was thought may be a crowded Republican field. That now is just not the case. If North Dakota ends up with six more years of Heidi Heitkamp, the Republicans will have only themselves to blame.
For now, I guess it’s… “Go Tom, go!”