Cramer's comments on Kavanaugh allegations under scrutiny in close N. Dakota race

Cramer's comments on Kavanaugh allegations under scrutiny in close N. Dakota race
Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerOn The Money: Trump reverses North Korea sanctions imposed by Treasury | Trump to nominate Stephen Moore to Fed | Monthly deficit hits record 4 billion | IRS expands penalty relief for taxpayers Overnight Health Care: Dems demand answers on rule targeting Planned Parenthood | Senators tell FDA to speed approval of generic insulin | Nearly 8 in 10 say drug prices are 'unreasonable' in new poll Senators tell FDA to speed up approvals of generic insulin MORE’s (R-N.D.) recent controversial remarks about sexual misconduct are coming under intense criticism from Democrats as a close race against Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampRed dresses displayed around American Indian museum to memorialize missing, murdered native women Lobbying World Lobbying World MORE (D-N.D.) enters its final stretch.
 
The attacks come after Cramer appeared to describe sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as “absurd."
 
He later sought to clarify that by explaining he was referring to the timing of the accusations and comparisons to Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991.
 
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The three-term Congressman raised further controversy after questioning whether the allegations surrounding Kavanaugh should disqualify the nominee “even if it’s all true.”
 
He later made clear that it would be disqualifiying if it was revealed that Kavanaugh had lied about the incident.
 
The comments have invited a swift rebuke by Heitkamp and other Democrats as the Kavanaugh nomination gets mired in an intense partisan fight in a year marked by the "#MeToo" movement after a slew of sexual misconduct allegations against men.
 
Heitkamp is considered one of the Senate's most vulnerable Democrats this year after President TrumpDonald John TrumpHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Countdown clock is on for Mueller conclusions Omar: White supremacist attacks are rising because Trump publicly says 'Islam hates us' MORE won the state by nearly 36 points in 2016 as Republicans try to defend their slim 51-49 majority.
 
The race is currently rated as a "toss-up" by non-partisan prognosticator Cook Political Report, and recent polls have shown a close race.
 
A Fox News poll this month showed Cramer leading Heitkamp by 4 points, just outside the survey’s 3.5-percent margin of error.
 
“His comments were disturbing and representative of a bigger issue Congressman Cramer has with respecting women and victims of assault or abuse,” Libby Schneider, Heitkamp’s campaign manager, said in a statement to The Hill.
 
Meanwhile, former law enforcement officials and victim advocates on Wednesday sounded off in a conference call organized by Heitkamp’s campaign, suggesting that comments like the ones made by Cramer could discourage sexual misconduct victims from coming forward in other cases.
 
“I hear comments like what have been made by Rep. Cramer and it's very disappointing, because I've seen these victims. I've seen the hurt,” Lauren Wild, a former Walsh County, N.D. sheriff, said on the call.
 
“I've seen the family members suffer, and it's very disturbing,” Wild added. “And then to see something like this and make light of it, almost, is not appropriate.”

The Democrats' attacks come amid intense enthusiasm among female voters this year, many of whom have been motivated by a deep dissatisfaction with Trump. 

A record number of women are also seeking public office this year, prompting 2018 to be called the “Year of the Woman.

Yet whether Democrats can make the attacks stick remains uncertain, political observers say.
 
Kavanaugh's nomination has sparked an intense partisan battle on Capitol Hill after Christine Blasey Ford became the first of three women to come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against the judge.
 
Ford, a college professor, accused him of pinning her down to a bed and trying to remove her clothing at a high school party in the early 1980s. 
 
Kavanaugh has adamantly denied all the allegations, and on Thursday offered a resounding defense of his character before the Senate Judiciary Committee after Ford had testified earlier in the day. 
 
"As I have said from the beginning, it is hard not to be skeptical due to the timing and course of events, but both the accuser and Mr. Kavanaugh deserve to be heard and now that has happened. I will be reviewing the findings of the committee in the coming days and will be better able to comment then," Cramer said in a statement to The Hill on Thursday.
 
A successful confirmation of Kavanaugh could cement a conservative hold on the court for decades to come, making it a top priority for the White House and Republicans.
 
Heitkamp has yet to say whether she would vote to confirm the nominee. She voted for Trump’s first Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, last year, and prior to the allegations against Kavanaugh she was considered to be among the red-state Democrats that could vote to put him on the court.
 
Meanwhile, Cramer has previously faced backlash for controversial remarks, but has largely survived them with his political career intact.
 
Last March, for example, Cramer said that Democratic female lawmakers who wore white to Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress to stand up for women's rights were “poorly dressed."
 
He also took heat last year for saying there’s some “validity” to former White House press secretary Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerFive things we know about Dems' sprawling Trump probe The five Trump communications directors who have come and gone New York state officials subpoena Trump Org's longtime insurance broker MORE’s widely panned remark that Adolf Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons.

Nonetheless GOP leaders, including President Trump, had worked aggressively to recruit Cramer to challenge Heitkamp, seeing him as the best choice to turn the seat red. 

The North Dakota race has so far been dominated by Trump’s ongoing trade war with China and health care.

Tyler Axness, a North Dakota radio show host and former Democratic state legislator, said that voters are more focused on economic issues than the Supreme Court nomination.

“What’s on the minds of North Dakota voters right now is this tariff situation,” he said. “More of the economic stuff is on top of mind. Whether or not this has an impact or not, I think has yet to be seen.”

Republican operatives also expressed skepticism that Democrats would succeed in making the attacks stick.

“I don’t know what’s going to move the needle with this race,” one North Dakota GOP operative said.

“What is a big deal to American Bridge isn’t necessarily a big deal to North Dakota,” the operative added, referring to the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century.