Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota has been one of Donald Trump’s best friends in Congress. She’s backed most of Trump’s cabinet nominees and his attacks on the environment, and said in an interview with the Washington Post in April that Trump even tried to recruit her to switch parties during a meeting at Trump Tower during the transition. And last month, Heitkamp joined Trump at the signing of a bill gutting Dodd-Frank—a bill she proudly took credit for.
All of this is at odds with the fact that Trump helped convince GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota’s lone representative in the House, to give up one of the safest seats in the country to run against Heitkamp. Last week, Cramer told the AP that Trump personally “begged” him to run for Senate.
And now, he’s pissed that Trump can’t stop praising his opponent. The Washington Post reports:
Upset, Cramer contacted White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly to appeal for political help and traded warning shots with Trump’s legislative affairs director, Marc Short.
Cramer says he believes Trump is giving Heitkamp preferential treatment because she is a woman. He accused the first-term senator of being insecure and going out of her way to stand near Trump at last month’s signing of the banking bill, which Cramer also attended.
“Have you ever watched the video? It’s obscene,” said Cramer, who in an interview with The Washington Post re-created Heitkamp’s movements and the setup of the room.
Cramer’s theory that Trump favors Heitkamp because she’s a woman is at odds with pretty much everything we know about him. The simple reason for Trump’s affinity towards Heitkamp is that she’s supported Trump in Congress more than any other Democratic senator, save for Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama.
And it’s not just Trump who’s giving Heitkamp a hand in keeping her seat. The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity launched digital ads earlier this month to help Heitkamp out in her race, in a state which Trump won by thirty-six points in 2016. The North Dakota Senate race is rated as a tossup by the Cook Political Report.
What makes matters worse for Cramer is that he seemingly didn’t even want to run for Senate in the first place. In January, Cramer announced that he would seek reelection to the much easier House seat; a month later, however, he decided to run after Republican power brokers went on a full court press to change his mind. (The North Dakota primary is on Tuesday; Cramer is expected to win the GOP nomination handily.)
Cramer has taken his frustration with the White House public, focusing his criticism on Trump’s legislative affairs director Marc Short. “If Marc Short was very good at his job, you know, we’d have a repeal and replacement of Obamacare,” Cramer said in a radio interview in late May.
The Post reports that Short’s relationship with Cramer has “improved” after they spoke privately last week, but apparently, it’s not helping him yet: on Sunday, Cramer said that a report from the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin that Trump was heading to North Dakota to campaign with him was wrong.