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 HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE.
President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE is considering Heitkamp for either Agriculture or Energy secretary. The two met at Trump Tower a week ago, and Heitkamp has had follow-up calls with some of Trump’s top aides.
McConnell and other GOP leaders are eager to expand their narrow three-seat advantage in the Senate. Having Trump tap two red-state Democrats — Heitkamp and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinCentrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE (D-W.Va.) — for key Cabinet posts would be one way to quickly achieve that goal.
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 Clinton3 ways government can help clean up Twitter Intelligence Democrat: Stop using 'quid pro quo' to describe Trump allegations The Memo: Bloomberg's 2020 moves draw ire from Democrats 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.”