To me, such tactics appeared to show that Democrats were not only concerned about the prospects of Cramer running against Heitkamp, but that they were desperate. Which is no surprise, since it is alleged that internal polling by Cramer shows that Heitkamp would have been in trouble in such a match-up.
But with Cramer’s announcement, everything may have changed as quickly as the words came out of his mouth. Not only may Heitkamp have the upper hand against the only declared Republican Candidate, State Senator Tom Campbell, but the implications of this decision could be pivotal for Democrats and problematic for the NDGOP, a certain Secretary of State candidate, and other down-ticket candidates.
The NDGOP’s State Republican Convention is set to take place in Grand Forks from April 6th – 8th. A Kevin Cramer candidacy would have likely generated far more interest from state Republicans in becoming delegates to the convention. And here’s why… had Cramer chosen to run for U.S. Senate, Tom Campbell would have likely switched to the U.S. House race. Speculation is that this would have resulted in more Republicans jumping in the race for U.S. House.
A contested U.S. House race – together with Cramer as the man set to go up against Senator Heidi Heitkamp – could have been a draw. But as it stands now, Tom Campbell may stand alone as the only Republican vying for the chance to run against Heitkamp. And Kevin Cramer will likely have only DuWayne Hendrickson to contest with for the endorsement in the U.S. House race. Hendrickson has ran before, but has been unsuccessful.
This scenario leaves much to be desired for Republicans across the state. And if it proves true that there’s less delegates as a result of it, one has to wonder where this will leave Secretary of State candidate Will Gardner in his bid to unseat incumbent Al Jaeger. While Gardner is an exceptional candidate, the Secretary of State position just doesn’t seem to rally the troops like a U.S. Senate or U.S. House race does. If things remain as they are, the task of assembling sufficient delegates for Gardner may have become more difficult.
There’s then the issue of down-ticket candidates in the General Election. If a Tom Campbell candidacy doesn’t inspire high voter turnout on the Republican side, those candidates could suffer for it. While the Republicans dominate the State Legislature, there was already speculation that Democrats will pick up some seats this election cycle. Could Cramer’s decision not to run for U.S. Senate guarantee that now? And is it possible they may pick up more than expected?
One example of a down-ticket candidate that could be in trouble is House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R – District 41). Carlson had a tough race last go around and was already expected to have another one. Is it possible he could get ousted as a result of Cramer’s decision?
There’s still a bit of time to go– enough for other candidates to jump into the U.S. Senate race. But time is running out. And if things remain as they are, it may be that people will one day look back at Congressman Kevin Cramer’s decision as the pivotal moment that gave Senator Heidi Heitkamp and North Dakota Democrats new life– at the expense of Republicans.