“That’s ridiculous,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a red-state Democrat who has billed herself as a moderate, told CNN. “I can’t imagine how you get anything done if you don’t bring civility back into politics, and that goes for both sides.”
Heitkamp appears to have been distancing herself from the former presidential candidate whom she praised and endorsed in 2016. Heitkamp is facing a tough reelection bid in North Dakota, a state that President Trump won by 36 percentage points.
In March, Heitkamp took offense to Clinton’s comments that were seen as disparaging of middle America, including North Dakota. Clinton said in India that she won “optimistic, diverse, dynamic” states, while Trump carried “all that red in the middle.” A North Dakota radio host, who’s also Heitkamp’s brother, later asked the senator when she thinks Clinton will “ride off into the sunset.”
“Not soon enough,” Heitkamp responded.
Heitkamp had previously spoken glowingly of Clinton, telling the Daily Beast in 2014 that she thought the former secretary of state would run for president and be an “excellent” commander in chief.
“I think she transcends gender. When people look at her, they don’t see male or female. They see a very accomplished, qualified candidate. She’s very collaborative, very open to a different way of looking at things, uber smart. She digs down and understands the issue,” Heitkamp said.
Heitkamp, who won North Dakota by a one-percentage-point margin — less than 3,000 votes — in 2012, is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate. With less than a month left before the midterm elections, Heitkamp is defending her decision to vote against the Supreme Court nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh, citing sexual misconduct allegations and concerns over the judge’s temperament, honesty and impartiality.
But Kavanaugh, who was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of groping her and pinning her down on a bed during a house party in Maryland in the 1980s, is widely supported in North Dakota. Some polls show Heitkamp trailing by double digits against Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who has sought to paint her as someone who chose party over the people she represents.
Speaking with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night, Heitkamp called for bipartisanship and, again, defended her position about believing people who have been sexually assaulted.
“The rhetoric on both sides needs to calm down . . . If all we do is point fingers, that’s not going to serve any purpose for the victims of sexual assault in this country,” Heitkamp said.
Clinton, meanwhile, has been striking a more partisan tone, blaming Republicans for the chaos that has engulfed American politics.
“The only thing that the Republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength. And you heard how the Republican members led by [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and the president really demeaned the confirmation process, insulted and attacked not only Dr. Ford, but women who are speaking out,” Clinton told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.