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 CramerHeitkamp highlights anti-human trafficking bill in new ad Cramer touts economic record in new ad amid attacks from Heitkamp over trade war GOP plays defense on ObamaCare’s pre-existing conditions 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 HeitkampHeitkamp highlights anti-human trafficking bill in new ad Midterm polling data favors Democrats — in moderation This week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos MORE (D-N.D.).

The Associated Press confirmed with a source close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFord's lawyer: Hearing doesn't appear to be designed for 'fair', 'respectful' treatment GOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Press: Judge Kavanaugh must withdraw 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 TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown 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.