North Dakota rep: Trump wants me to run for Senate

North Dakota rep: Trump wants me to run for Senate
© Greg Nash

In a phone call this week, President Trump personally urged Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota GOP's Cramer won't run for ND Senate seat GOP angst over midterms grows MORE (R-N.D.) to jump in the race against North Dakota Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota GOP's Cramer won't run for ND Senate seat GOP Rep. Cramer 'trending' toward ND Senate run MORE, a vulnerable Democrat whom Trump’s been courting on tax reform and other issues.

“He strongly encouraged me to run,” Cramer told The Hill in an interview Friday outside the Capitol.

“We talked about tax reform a lot. That was the first topic and the last topic,” Cramer said of the Tuesday phone call. But the congressman added: “I think he wanted to talk about the Senate race.

“I told him I won’t do anything before tax reform,” Cramer recounted. “And [Trump] said, ‘That’s a good idea.’ ”

Cramer has been discussing his phone call with Trump with local media outlets. He confirmed Friday he will vote “yes” on the GOP tax bill, which House Republicans unveiled on Thursday.

As North Dakota’s at-large House member, Cramer is the Peace Garden State’s sole representative and someone who has already proven he can win a statewide race. He won his third term in the House in 2016.

The phone call from Trump is a big boost for Cramer; Trump is enormously popular in North Dakota and beat Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) MORE by 36 percentage points. In December, Trump interviewed Cramer for a Cabinet post, but the congressman ultimately didn't get the job.

If he runs, Cramer would face off in the GOP primary with state Sen. Tom Campbell, who announced his bid in August.

The president’s comments to Cramer are notable given that Trump has been courting Heitkamp, hoping to pick up a Democratic vote for his sweeping plan to overhaul the U.S. tax system.

In September, Trump and Heitkamp traveled together on Air Force One to North Dakota. At an event at an oil refinery in Mandan, N.D., Trump invited Heitkamp to join him on stage.   

“Everybody’s saying, ‘What’s she doing up here?’ ” Trump told the crowd. “But I’ll tell you what: Good woman.”