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Commentary: Trump crumpled up Heitkamp's campaign narrative and threw it in the garbage

columnist Rob Port

MINOT N.D.—If Senator Heidi Heitkamp could have walked out on the stage with President Donald Trump in Fargo she would have.

I can say this because I pay attention to her campaign.

Her almost ubiquitous campaign ads claim endlessly that she votes with President Trump "most of the time."

Heitkamp's staff was even on Twitter during the address touting an Associated Press fact check which found that claim about a pro-Trump voting record accurate.

Speaking of Twitter, the liberal commentators and activists who support Heitkamp took to social media during the address and mocked Trump and the crowd of North Dakotans who assembled to cheer him on.

Those folks, some of whom you listen to on the radio and read in the newspaper, described through a thick cloud of smug a crowd of drooling rubes working themselves into a lather over the ranting of a clown.

They don't get it.

The simple reality is Heitkamp needs that crowd.

Heitkamp can't win in North Dakota without Republican support.

In recent weeks Heitkamp has worked very hard to cultivate a narrative in which she's a trusted Trump ally in the Senate. She all but tried to sit in the President's lap at a recent bill signing ceremony. After the speech she sent out an obsequious statement about her willingness to continue working with Trump.

But that narrative has reached a point of diminishing returns.

Trump himself told the crowd in Fargo "she'll vote no after the election on everything."

Heitkamp's past voting record puts some weight behind this claim. She campaigned as a moderate in 2012 too, but in 2013 voted over 95 percent of the time with President Barack Obama and her fellow Democrats.

"I think Trump just ended Heidi's political career," a friend of mine who edits a North Dakota newspaper messaged me during the speech.

"I know she is tough but her pandering to Trump didn't work," he continued.

I'm not ready to go that far. I wouldn't count Heitkamp out until she concedes on election night.

She does need to pivot to something new.

Polling from Morning Consult shows the Senator's approval rating down to 44 percent in May from a high of 60 percent in July of last year.

That same poll had 50 percent of respondents saying it was time to elect someone other than Heitkamp.

Meanwhile a Mason-Dixon poll showed Heitkamp trailing Cramer by four points, and the President just crumpled up her "I'm pro-Trump" narrative and threw it in the garbage.

If there was one ray of light for the Democrats it's that Trump didn't do a great job of talking about trade during the rally. He addressed it, but spent most of his time touting how great he's doing for the steel industry which is probably not what North Dakota's energy and agriculture industries wanted to hear.

Higher steel and aluminum prices aren't good for people who need to buy tractors and drilling rigs.

Still, Trump's rally has changed the trajectory of the Senate race in Cramer's favor.

What will Heitkamp do next?

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort

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