McConnell huddles with GOP rep to discuss possible ND Senate opening

McConnell huddles with GOP rep to discuss possible ND Senate opening
© Victoria Sarno Jordan
The Tuesday meeting at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters near the Capitol touched on various scenarios that could play out in the coming days and weeks involving the North Dakota Senate seat now occupied by Democrat Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampMulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation Heitkamp ad highlights record as Senate race heats up Supreme Court rules states can require online sellers to collect sales tax MORE.
Manchin, who is threatening to shut down the government Friday over what he sees as inadequate health benefits for coal miners, is set to meet with Trump early next week, likely to discuss the Energy secretary post.
The GOP will hold 52 seats if Republican John Kennedy defeats Democrat Foster Campbell in Louisiana’s Senate runoff on Saturday. 
If Heitkamp gets the nod, a special election would need to be held in North Dakota within 95 days. Cramer, an early Trump supporter who also is being considered for the top Energy job, would be the favorite to win the Senate seat. 
As the at-large congressman for North Dakota, Cramer already has had the luxury of running for statewide office so voters there are familiar with him; he just won his third House term last month.
If Heitkamp isn’t asked to join the Trump Cabinet, it’s likely Cramer would challenge her in 2018, he has told friends and colleagues. Heitkamp's shown an independent streak and is popular in North Dakota, but she'd face a difficult race: Trump crushed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonColorado governor teases possible presidential run Mueller asks judge for September sentencing for Papadopoulos House Judiciary Committee subpoenas FBI agent who sent anti-Trump texts MORE (D) in the state, 64 to 28 percent.
The McConnell-Gardner-Cramer meeting is more evidence that the politically savvy majority leader is taking an active role in trying to orchestrate the departure of red-state Democratic senators early in the 115th Congress. 
Having a slightly larger GOP majority would make it that much easier for Trump and McConnell to pass key priorities like repealing and replacing ObamaCare and tax reform. 
“There’s some collaboration” between McConnell and the presidential transition team, said one GOP source familiar with the Tuesday meeting. “His message was 52 is a good number, but 53 or 54 is a lot better number. And the sooner the better.
“He is a very shrewd son of a bitch.”