U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp raised over $1.3 million in the second quarter of 2017 according to a spokesperson. The second quarter fundraising exceeds the amount any other North Dakota Senator has raised in the same quarter of an off year. This leaves Heitkamp with $3 million cash on hand and no declared opponent should she decide to run for reelection.
We are seventeen months out from the 2018 November election. To date, there have been no declared Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate race. According to reports in Washington, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has lost patience with the anticipated front-runner to challenge Heitkamp, Congressman Kevin Cramer. The loss of confidence follows “cringe-worthy comments” Cramer has made over the past few months. The first report of NRSC nervousness was made in April by CNN following Cramer’s white pantsuit episode and defending Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s comments on Syria and Hitler. The gaffs have continued for Cramer, the latest being when he called a TV personality a “snob” in defense of controversial Trump tweets. Cramer was one of, if not the only, elected official to defend Trump’s tweets about MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski.
The uneasiness with Cramer isn’t isolated to the NRSC. Last week, a Republican State Representative from Minot, Roscoe Streyle, took to Twitter to share his disapproval with Cramer and the Republican Congress. Late Sunday afternoon, Cramer responded in defense accusing Streyle of pushing “fake news.”
Following the first quarter fundraising report, Cramer said he wouldn’t have difficulty raising money should he choose to enter the race against Heitkamp. My hunch is he was anticipating to rely heavily on NRSC help. What if that help isn’t there? If the NRSC isn’t all in with Cramer or any other candidate for that matter, how will they catch up to Heitkamp’s fundraising advantage? They’d likely need someone who can self-fund their campaign.
Self funding a campaign is likely why the NRSC initially went to State Senator Tom Campbell following Cramer’s missteps. Campbell is a wealthy farmer who’s farm has received millions in federal payments and is ambitious to run for higher office. Any office will do according to Campbell himself. However, the word in some circles is the NRSC has started to walk away from Campbell for undisclosed reasons.
I’m guessing the NRSC is beginning to get a little nervous about North Dakota. Affiliated groups have hired a tracker to follow Heitkamp through the Senate hallways which violates a “bipartisan truce” according to Roll Call. My understanding is only Heitkamp has a tracker inside the Senate hallways following her as she works.
Here is the kicker: Heitkamp hasn’t announced she is running for reelection either. But you don’t raise record-setting amounts of cash in an off year unless you have serious intent on retaining your seat. I think it would be wise for the Senator just to come out and publicly state what many of us believe as inevitable. What’s the wait? She’s raised the cash; she polled at 60% favorability in the state earlier this year, all that is missing is a statement saying, “I’m Heidi Heitkamp, and I’d be honored to continue to serve you in the U.S. Senate.”