Heitkamp doubled down on her criticism of Obama in a Friday conference call with reporters where she said the president’s decision was an example of all that is wrong with modern politics.

“People in Washington talk a big game about creating energy jobs, getting off our addiction to foreign oil, but when the time comes, our leaders in Washington today continue to play political games and get in partisan squabbles on getting the job done,” she said.

In another rare move for a Democrat, Heitkamp praised the man she hopes will be her partner in the delegation, Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenMcConnell works to salvage tax bill GOP to reduce tax relief by 0B to win over deficit hawks  The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (R-N.D.), the popular former governor elected to the Senate in 2010.

“I know that Sen. John Hoeven has been very active on this issue. He understands the impact,” Heitkamp said. “I will work with him.”

Heitkamp and other Democratic candidates on the ballot the same year as Obama is seeking reelection pose an interesting dilemma for Democratic leaders: They know candidates must embrace the anti-Washington fervor if they are to win seats in November, but they also know there is a risk for Democratic control of the White House if they go too far in faulting Obama for the nation’s ills.

So far, they seem to have deemed the first prospect as less risky, judging by Senate Democrats’ choice of independent-minded recruits in conservative-leaning states such as North Dakota and Arizona.

Republicans, however, have no intention of letting claims by Democrats to be independent from Obama go unchallenged. The National Republican Senatorial Committee shot back at Heitkamp’s letter, arguing that issues such as the pipeline would help voters realize the importance of not sending more Democrats to Congress who would rubber stamp Obama’s policies.

“No amount of election-year political posturing from Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE will cause North Dakotans to forget that she has long been a proud and loyal supporter of President Obama and his liberal agenda,” NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said in a statement.

But asked by The Hill whether her letter presaged a long-term approach to run against Obama and Washington Democrats, Heitkamp said the question represented what was wrong with politics: The bastardization of critical policy issues into partisan dissection of what position benefits whom.

“There’s no political calculation in any of this. This pipelines needs to be built,” Heitkamp said. “It’s about doing the right thing for our state and the right thing for our country.”

— This post was updated at 11:11 a.m.