It’s been a pretty rough couple of weeks for liberal Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp. Her opponent, Rick Berg, is getting some pretty good traction in the state with criticism of big-money contributions she solicited from an left-wing anti-nuclear group. In the three independent public polls released this week she’s trailing by wide margins, between 5 and 10 points, and in the third from Mason-Dixon (clearly an outlier) the best she could do was a tie.
The Heitkamp campaign has even taken to releasing clearly cooked polling data from Democrat pollsters which indicate that she’s winning the race, a sure sign of desperation just a couple of weeks out from election day.
Heitkamp has benefited from a perception in the media (which her campaign has worked long and hard to create) that she’s a strong, competitive candidate in a state many thought was a sure bet for Republicans. That image seems to be imploding of late, and perhaps it’s fitting that it’s all happening around the four-year anniversary of Heitkamp’s contribution to help Barack Obama get elected in 2008:
That contribution is symbolic, I think, of what has plagued Heitkamp’s campaign since day one. Yesterday I spoke with a friend who saw Heitkamp speak to the Rotary Club here in Minot. He said her campaign pitch was almost indistinguishable from one a Republican might make. It is undeniable that Heitkamp has shifted way to the right since she started her Senate campaign, but unfortunately facts are stubborn things.
North Dakota voters, I think, recognize Heitkamp’s self-serving shift. The state’s liberals may be perfectly willing to let their candidate get away with it, knowing she’ll come back to the left once in office, but I’m not sure other voters in the state are buying it. What’s more important to them, I think, isn’t this character Heitkamp is portraying on the campaign trail but rather who Heitkamp was in the 12 years between when she was last on the ballot in 2000 and when she decided to jump into the Senate race.
During that time Heitkamp was a true-blue liberal, putting money down to elect Barack Obama and acting as an outspoken proponent for his policies in the state when she wasn’t busy being a sidekick on her very liberal brother’s talk radio show.
That’s what North Dakotans know about Heidi Heitkamp, and that’s what will cost her the election.