President Trump took the stage in North Dakota’s largest city Wednesday evening to boost another Republican candidate, one day after three of his chosen candidates won GOP primaries or runoff elections.
Trump was in Fargo to endorse U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, who is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. The president told the crowd of approximately 6,000 people at Scheels Arena that “you need a senator who doesn’t just talk like they’re from North Dakota, but votes like they’re from North Dakota.”
“He loves you, I will tell you that,” Trump said of Cramer. “He loves this state, loves the people. And we need Kevin Cramer to replace liberal Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.”
When called up to speak, Cramer praised Trump for moving to roll back Obama-era energy regulation, passing tax reform legislation and “standing for life.”
“And on these very important North Dakota values … I’ll always be with them and with you, 100 percent of the time,” Cramer said.
The relationship between Cramer and the White House didn’t always have a smiling public face. Last month, Cramer made clear that he was less than happy with Trump’s friendly treatment of Heitkamp — including her front-row appearance when Trump signed a banking bill.
Trump’s past courtship of Heitkamp included an invitation to New York to discuss a Cabinet post soon after his 2016 election victory. Heitkamp also traveled with Trump to North Dakota on Air Force One last fall to promote tax reform and joined the president on stage, where he called her “a good woman.”
But on Wednesday, Trump accused Heitkamp of voting lockstep with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. He cited Heitkamp’s votes against tax reform, against ObamaCare repeal and support for so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Republicans see Heitkamp’s seat as a key pickup opportunity in their battle to keep the Senate in GOP hands. Heitkamp won her first term by only about 3,000 votes in 2012, and both sides have stockpiled millions for the race.
The president is riding a winning streak with his endorsements. On Tuesday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster survived a Republican runoff election one day after Trump held a rally in the state to support him. Also on Tuesday, Rep. Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., easily defeated former Rep. Michael Grimm in a GOP primary and former Trump adversary Mitt Romney won the Republican nomination to be Utah’s next U.S. senator.
Trump visits North Dakota as new economic data show the state falling behind its Midwestern neighbors amid concerns about an escalating trade war with China. North Dakota’s agricultural economy is dependent on exports and the Beijing government recently imposed a 25 percent tariff on soybeans, the state’s top crop.
This is a developing story; check back for more updates. The Associated Press contributed to this report.