After months of bashing away at Congress, President Trump finally had something nice to say about a senator facing a tough reelection. To Republicans’ chagrin, it was to praise one of their top 2018 targets.
After giving Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) the VIP treatment on Air Force One, Trump hauled her onstage in her home state alongside a number of Republicans to praise her for her openness to supporting his tax cut plan.
“Senator Heitkamp, senator, come on up,” Trump said. “Everyone’s saying, ‘what’s she doing up here?’ But I’ll tell you what, good woman, and I think we’ll have your support, I hope we’ll have your support. Thank you very much, senator.”
Trump then shook her hand — a moment that may be likely to appear in campaign ads next year for Heitkamp in a state that Trump won by 36 percentage points.
Trump has spent much of the last six weeks warring with Senate Republicans, feuding publicly with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and repeatedly ripping into Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who’s facing a Trump-fueled primary challenge in his own tough reelection.
Republicans had been hopeful that Trump would use tax reform to begin attacking Democrats instead. And he did, for a minute, blasting Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in a recent visit to Missouri for opposing his plan.
Instead, he embraced one of their top 2018 targets just hours after siding with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over the entirety of congressional GOP leadership in agreeing to a three-month extension of the debt ceiling rather than a longer one.
If Heitkamp ends up opposing the plan, Trump may well to turn on her like he has with many others in both parties he’d previously praised. But Republicans can’t be thrilled with Wednesday’s comments.