Cramer to announce North Dakota Senate run on Friday

Cramer to announce North Dakota Senate run on Friday
© Greg Nash

North Dakota Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds The Hill's Morning Report — Trump denigrates NATO allies, floats 4 percent solution Supreme Court vacancy throws Senate battle into chaos MORE (R) will announce at a Friday rally that he’s running for the Senate, giving Republicans a high-profile candidate to challenge Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPolling analyst: Same Dems who voted for Gorsuch will vote for Kavanaugh Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE (D-N.D.).

The Associated Press confirmed with a source close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Hillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal MORE (R-Ky.), who was heavily recruiting Cramer to run, that the at-large congressman will jump into the race. Cramer’s reversal comes after initially passing on a Senate bid last month.

A Facebook page labeled “Kevin Cramer for US Senate” posted that Cramer will make the announcement at a hotel in Bismarck on Friday night.

Cramer's candidacy will give Republicans a decent shot at knocking off Heitkamp, who's running for her second term. Republicans see North Dakota as a prime opportunity to pick up a Senate seat and boost their slim majority.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE, who was also lobbying Cramer to enter the Senate race, won North Dakota by nearly 36 points in the 2016 election.

Cramer won't have the Republican primary to himself, though he's expected to have an easier path to the nomination given his statewide name recognition. State Sen. Tom Campbell is also running.

Republicans hold just 51 seats in the upper chamber, which means that Democrats could regain the majority by netting two seats.

But the 2018 Senate map significantly favors Republicans, who are defending eight seats. Democrats, meanwhile, need to defend more than two dozen seats, which include 10 that Trump carried in 2016.

Amid chatter that Cramer was reconsidering, North Dakota Democrats were preempting a potential bid with releases of old stories about Republicans previously discouraging him from running and backlash over past comments.

Following the news about Cramer’s rally, Democratic super PAC American Bridge quickly released a statement claiming that Republicans recruited him “out of desperation.”

"Mitch McConnell and Washington Republicans have been turned down over and over again by high-quality recruits in North Dakota, so out of desperation they are tying their fortunes to Kevin Cramer,” said American Bridge spokesman Joshua Karp.

“Republicans themselves admit that Cramer's toxic, 'Akin-like tendencies' and lackluster fundraising are a recipe for electoral disaster. But he is literally the only North Dakota candidate willing to say yes to Mitch McConnell and run this year," Karp said, referring to Todd Akin, a 2012 GOP Senate candidate in Missouri whose campaign imploded after he made comments that "legitimate rape" could not result in pregnancy. 

Updated at 2:25 p.m.