As the election year kicks into high gear, Republicans have grown increasingly frustrated with Trump’s ongoing flirtation with the freshman senator. At a time when many in the GOP fear that the president’s unpredictable style will undercut their best-laid midterm plans, the relationship has given Heitkamp — who is seeking reelection in a state where Trump won nearly two-thirds of the vote — fodder to portray herself as a presidential ally.
Her office keeps a running list of the dozen-plus meetings Heitkamp has had with Trump and his top advisers since the 2016 election. And the senator is fond of noting that she forged close ties with Trump’s former top economist, Gary Cohn. The president met with Heitkamp in Trump Tower after the 2016 election to discuss a possible Cabinet position, asked her to join him on Air Force One, and invited her onstage to join him and her Republican opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer, during an appearance in North Dakota.
“Everyone is saying, ‘What’s she doing up here?’” the president said at the September event to sell his tax reform plan, which Heitkamp eventually opposed. “But I’ll tell you what. Good woman, and I think we’ll have your support, I hope we’ll have your support. And thank you very much, senator, thank you for coming up.”