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McFeely: For Cramer, Kevin comes before president and party

Rep. Kevin Cramer answers questions from the Grand Forks Herald editorial board in August. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)

Making America Great Again takes a backseat to Kevin Keeping His Job, apparently.

What else are we to think now that Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota has milked all the attention he could out of a potential run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, only to turn his back on North Dakota Republicans, the national GOP and President Donald Trump by deciding he was going to take the easy route and instead seek re-election to the House? Cramer will leave the heavy lifting of taking on the well-funded, bare-knuckled Heitkamp to somebody else because, well, that's what suits Cramer best.

Party, president and country be darned. That $175,000 salary with all the benefits is just too sweet to risk.

Cramer's announcement this week that he will not run against the very vulnerable Heitkamp, a Democrat in a glowing red state, surprised and angered many North Dakota Republicans and, quite possibly, some White House staff. Maybe even the president himself. All viewed Cramer as the surest bet to oust Heitkamp and gain a crucial Senate seat to maintain a slim Republican majority.

Cramer touted his poll numbers against Heitkamp and said he would win if he ran. But when crunch time came, a few days after he met with Trump at the White House and said for the umpteenth time how much the president wanted him to run, Cramer bailed. He'll instead face Democrat Ben Hanson for the U.S House, a race Cramer is likely to win easily.

In taking the path of least resistance, Cramer cited the usual reasons — family and his belief that his seat in the House is just as important as the Senate seat. It's bunk. Politics are rough, something Cramer knows since he's a career politician on the government payroll for most of the last 25 years. And, no, being one of 435 is never as influential as being one of 100, especially since signs point to Republicans losing their House majority in November while keeping their Senate edge.

No, it appears Cramer made his decision with self-preservation in mind, knowing that a victory over Heitkamp was likely, but not guaranteed. By doing so, he made Trump look weak by rejecting the president while snubbing the national GOP, which views remaining candidate Tom Campbell as impotent.

As for North Dakota Republicans, Cramer again neutered them, just as he did in 2012 by skipping the party process and defeating the nominated candidate in the primary. The party's hierarchy expected Cramer to defeat Heitkamp based on his polling numbers — and instead is left to scramble to recruit another candidate it believes can defeat Heitkamp, because they don't believe Campbell is that person.

Anyone know what former governor and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer is up to these days?

The 71-year-old just might be up for it. Not because he wants to, but because he feels it's his duty to the party, the president and the country. What a selfless concept.

Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a WDAY (970 AM) radio host and a columnist for The Forum. You can respond to Mike's columns by listening to AM-970 from 8:30-11 a.m. weekdays.
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