ND politicos are treating Trump like an election year asset

Will President Donald Trump be an albatross around the neck of Republican candidates in North Dakota during the 2018 election cycle?

Former state lawmaker Kylie Oversen, the titular chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, seems to think so. She says fear created by Trump’s leadership is driving people to her party.

“I would say that President Trump is the catalyst for a lot of people getting involved for the first time,” she said during a recent event in the Fargo area. “Either because they’re scared about how he impacts their own lives or their neighbor’s lives.”

Trump has very low approval numbers, and his relatively short time in office has been plagued by one kerfuffle after another. It makes sense to conclude that Trump is a problem for Republicans in the 2018 election cycle. Even in North Dakota where, according to a recent Gallup poll, Trump is more popular than any state not named West Virginia.

So why are politicos active in North Dakota on both sides of the partisan divide treating Trump like an asset to Republicans?

“North Dakotans will make Heidi Heitkamp pay the price for failing to work with President Trump,” NRSC Spokesman Michael McAdams said in a release announcing a new digital ad campaign attacking North Dakota’s junior Senator. “Rather than implement the agenda North Dakota voters want, Heitkamp appears content to fall in line with Washington Democrats.”

State Senator Tom Campbell, in announcing his own campaign to unseat Heitkamp, also embraced Trump. He’s already running a video ad touting his desire to help the President implement his agenda. “Unlike Sen. Heitkamp who is blocking Trump’s agenda, Tom will partner with Trump to build the wall, overhaul the tax code and enact term limits on the career politicians,” his campaign said in a release announcing the ad.

Even Democrats in North Dakota are, despite the comments of their ostensible party leader, treating Trump with kid gloves.

Former state lawmaker Ben Hanson, who announced a campaign for the U.S. House seat currently occupied by Republican Kevin Cramer after taking fourth place in his legislative campaign last year, said he doesn’t plan to focus on Trump.

“I’m not running against the President,” he told my colleague Patrick Springer. “I’m running against Kevin Cramer.”

Heitkamp, meanwhile, was happy to be considered earlier this year for a possible seat in Trump’s cabinet. She’s also been one of the most reliable Democratic votes for Trump’s appointees and legislative agenda. So much so, in fact, that Heitkamp has come under fire from the left wing of her state party.

“There are people who aren’t satisfied with how she voted on Trump’s nominees,” Dustin Peyer, who announced he is challenging Heitkamp for the Senate nomination earlier this year, told me in an April interview, adding that the incumbent needs to “held accountable.”

Maybe Trump isn’t the political liability some would like us to think. Some will say otherwise, but how the politicians place their bets speaks louder than words.

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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