Senator Heidi Heitkamp is in for the battle of her political career– and she knows it. While not even knowing who her Republican opponent will be for the 2018 General Election, Heitkamp seems to be going out of her way to pander to North Dakota voters in hopes of keeping her seat.
While admitting last April that Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wouldn’t have been her choice for filling that vacancy – and despite the fact that her vote wasn’t needed to confirm him – Heitkamp was one of three Democrats up for re-election that voted for his confirmation. In fact, in considering whether he would have been her pick, her exact words were, “No. Never.”
Back in September, when President Trump came to North Dakota, Senator Heitkamp made the trip with him on Air Force One. She even appeared with the President on stage in Mandan. These moves make sense when we consider the fact that the state is considered “Trump Country” to many political pundits.
Earlier this month, Heitkamp was one of two Democrats to come out early in support of the President’s pick to lead Health & Human Services– Alex Azar. The other was Senator Joe Manchin– a Democrat from West Virginia who’s also up for re-election. And just today, Azar was confirmed on a near party-line vote that included Heitkamp and five of her Democratic colleagues– three out of the six of them are up for tough re-election bids.
Earlier this week – amidst the much talked about “government shutdown” – Heitkamp went out of her way to say that President Trump wasn’t the problem in getting Republicans and Democrats to come together to fund the government. As a side note… after the two sides ended the shutdown, Senator Susan Collins (R – Maine) was given credit as a “hero” in the process. Why? Because of the use of a “talking stick” from Africa, that she got as gift from Senator Heitkamp, which allowed one person at a time to speak in a meeting with “centrist Senators”. Apparently this was a tactic of civility taken from a “kindergarten classroom playbook”– as one author described it. Only the civility kind of broke down when Senator Lamar Alexander (R – Tennessee) forcefully tossed it at Senator Mark Warner (D – Virginia) after Warner interrupted him– nearly shattering a glass elephant belonging to Collins. Such is the childishness on Capitol Hill. But I digress.
Now, all of these things in relation to Heitkamp may appear to some as a positive. Some may actually claim that Senator Heitkamp has a real “independent streak” and that she knows how to represent North Dakotan’s in working across party lines– even if it means standing up to her own party. But is that the reality? Or is it actually political pandering in an election cycle? I would suggest there’s a very good chance that it’s the latter.
What must not be forgotten in the debate about Heitkamp are the positions she’s taken on things like Obamacare, the recent tax cut, her flip-flop on late-term abortions, and her 100% rating with Planned Parenthood. And that’s not all. Gun owners certainly shouldn’t forget the horrible position she took on the no-fly list in relation to gun ownership and her “D” rating with Gun Owner’s of America. In addition to all of this, some may find her support for the Iran Deal problematic. And the energy sector likely won’t forget her vote against rolling back Obama-era regulation on flaring.
So, in the end, pandering or not, Senator Heitkamp’s record leaves much to be desired. Is it any wonder she ended 2017 less popular than she started it? When the General Election rolls around, North Dakotan’s need to send her packing. That will be far more productive for Republicans than any talking stick ever was.