New Heidi Heitkamp ad: I voted against Kavanaugh because, well, he's a liar

He also showed that he was biased, she notes. Says Alex Griswold, “He was ‘biased’ in his own case? Perish the thought.”

The read on this ad from righties on Twitter is that Heitkamp’s admitting the race is over and is now simply looking to ingratiate herself to the left in hopes of a payday at some liberal outfit after leaving office. Eh. Certainly this message won’t hurt in that regard, but how many left-wing orgs are looking to add a squishy North Dakota moderate to the team?

I think the ad is strategic. She knows there’s nowhere to hide from her Kavanaugh vote so she might as well look the electorate in the eye and explain her reasoning forthrightly. A politician on the other team who seems to have the courage of his or her convictions, even when you disagree powerfully with those convictions on the merits, nonetheless might earn your respect. I’d bet cash money that, in a poll of Republicans, far-left Bernie Sanders would poll no worse than centrist Democrats and might actually poll better on the “respect” question. Heitkamp knows most of her state disagrees with her on Kavanaugh, but if she can at least convince them to respect her reasoning, it might take some of the sting out of their anger. And a voter who doesn’t feel stung is a voter who’s less likely to turn out.

Plus, of course, it keeps the Democratic minority in North Dakota happy. Heitkamp and Tennessee’s Phil Bredesen made opposite wagers on Kavanaugh. She bet that by voting no she’d retain and maybe even excite her base, without which she’s dead in the water. Bredesen bet that by saying he would have voted to confirm the nominee he’d avoid a backlash from Republican voters and would be forgiven by his Democratic base in the interests of winning. The jury is still out on Heitkamp’s strategy (although things aren’t looking good right now), but Bredesen looks to be in freefall against Marsha Blackburn. There’s no “good” strategy on Kavanaugh when you’re a red-state Democrat, but it’s at least arguable that Heitkamp’s base play is, shall we say, somewhat less disastrous than Bredesen’s outreach to righties.

I’m disappointed that she didn’t showcase her “body language” theory of Kavanaugh’s guilt here, though. If she’s going to lay all of her cards on the table and trust North Dakotans to do the right thing, let’s make sure it’s all her cards. I’d totally be up for a six- and seven-minute ad in which Heitkamp explains with geometric logic, like Captain Queeg with the strawberries, how a particular pattern of facial sweat proves Kavanaugh tried to rape young Christine Blasey Ford 36 years ago.