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Running through the tape: North Dakota's U.S. Senate candidates make final pitches

North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp rallies supporters in Bismarck Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. John Hageman / Forum News Service1 / 2
North Dakota Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer holds his grandson, Nico Senne, before voting for himself in the U.S. Senate race Monday, Nov. 5, 2018 in Bismarck. John Hageman / Forum News Service2 / 2

BISMARCK - Heidi Heitkamp rallied a couple hundred supporters in a Bismarck union hall and Kevin Cramer cast his ballot less than a mile away Monday morning, Nov. 5, as the race for U.S. Senate hurtled toward the finish line.

Heitkamp, a Democratic senator seeking a second term in a reliably red state, was on the final leg of her 25-stop statewide bus tour ahead of Tuesday's midterm election. In the capital city on a cold and wet morning, she relied on familiar campaign themes of health care, trade and bipartisanship and made another pitch to get voters to the polls.

Heitkamp won her seat by less than 3,000 votes six years ago and is widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable Democrats running for re-election this year. Public polls have showed her trailing Cramer by double digits.

But Heitkamp described a "surge" of support in the waning days of the campaign as she toured the state. Her Tuesday schedule includes stops in Jamestown, Valley City and Grand Forks.

North Dakota Democrats will hold their election night party in West Fargo.

"I'm running through the tape," Heitkamp said.

Cramer, a third-term Republican congressman, said he's also focused on getting people to the polls but in a different way. He said he's not planning any in-person events for the remaining hours of the campaign but was hitting talk radio and television airwaves while making phone calls to voters.

Cramer said he planned to spend Election Day in Bismarck, where Republicans will convene to watch the results come in.

Vastly outraised by Heitkamp, Cramer described his strategy as the most efficient way to reach as many voters as he can. He touted a high level of enthusiasm generated by his campaign and highlighted immigration and the prospect of Democratic control of the Senate as motivating factors for his supporters.

"I like hard work over money every time," Cramer said.

As of 3:15 p.m. Monday, almost 145,000 ballots had already been cast, outpacing early turnout from the last two presidential elections, according to Secretary of State Al Jaeger. Voters appear to be heading to the polls for the hotly contested Senate race, which has attracted two visits from President Donald Trump in support of Cramer, as well as a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana.

Republicans see the North Dakota race as crucial to their hopes of controlling the Senate, where they currently hold a slim majority.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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