GOP praise for the Victor of Singapore was pretty universal as the sun rose on Washington June 12, if you ignore some sour grapes from conservative foreign-policy experts who had some irrational expectation of a substantive agreement between the U.S. and North Korea. But there was a negative intraparty note sent into the world by the Washington Post, which reports some whining from U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer, who will this evening become the GOP nominee for a key U.S. Senate race against Senator Heidi Heitkamp:
Trump’s affinity for Heitkamp, who got a shout-out and a handshake at a recent White House bill signing, has frustrated top Republicans who see winning her Democratic seat as crucial to holding onto their fragile 51-to-49 majority. No one has felt it more acutely than GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, whom Trump personally recruited to run against Heitkamp….
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.
Aside from the unusual attribution of chivalrous motives to Donald Trump, Cramer seems to be ignoring the inherently duplicitous approach taken to incumbents from the other party by people in the White House who might need their votes. Due to John McCain’s illness, the Republican margin for error in the Senate has gone down to exactly zero, and even if they can hold all 50 active GOP senators on bills that aren’t being filibustered, it exposes the administration to massive extortion from every one of them.
So holding off a bit before going medieval on Heitkamp makes good practical sense, particularly at this early juncture where voters probably aren’t that focused on Senate races anyway. And besides, Cramer’s manifest envy of other GOP candidates who have secured a presidential appearance on their behalf may betray a reluctance to accept that North Dakota is not exactly a prime presidential travel destination.
In any event, Cramer has gotten into an amusing public spat with Trump’s legislative director Marc Short, whom he apparently blames for the president’s positive gestures towards his opponent:
“If Marc Short was very good at his job, you know, we’d have a repeal and replacement of Obamacare,” Cramer said in a surprising display of animosity toward a White House official [in a local radio interview].
This upset Short, who quickly brought the interview to the attention of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Cramer later called his radio comments a “little shot across the bow” that got the White House’s attention.
It’s unclear whether playground monitors caught the exchange. But Cramer’s claim of a gender double standard caught Heidi Heitkamp’s attention.
“I do think there’s a little difference in that she’s a woman,” Cramer said. “That’s probably part of it — that she’s a, you know, a female. He doesn’t want to be that aggressive, maybe [!]. I don’t know.”
“Well, that wouldn’t explain Claire. I think she’s a woman, right?” Heitkamp said, referring to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), whom Trump has criticized. “That theory falls apart almost immediately.”
The idea that Mr. Grab ’Em By the Whatever is instinctively opposed to aggression against women is pretty hilarious. And Heitkamp’s right: The minute her vote is no longer available or necessary in this year’s very limited Senate session, Trump and his minions will unload on her. Indeed, the North Dakota race could be especially vicious and hateful because of the very low cost of media air time there. Voters — and for that matter, anyone in the state that consumes any sort of media — should be grateful that the barrage hasn’t yet begun, even if Kevin Cramer is fretting about its delay.