Democrat Heidi Heitkamp emerged from the North Dakota Senate debate with a unique approach: aligning herself more with Sarah Palin than President Barack Obama — at least on energy.
In the first debate with Republican Rep. Rick Berg, Heitkamp insisted she would be an independent voice and took pains to separate herself from top leaders in her party. That tact couldn’t have been clearer when she wholeheartedly embraced Palin’s approach to energy production in her oil rich state.
“I think ‘Drill, Baby Drill’ is the way we need to do it,” Heitkamp said in response to a moderator’s question during a 50-minute North Dakota Broadcasters debate in Bismarck Wednesday morning. “This is an area where I have vehemently disagreed with the administration. They’ve walked away from coal. They’re hostile to oil.”
Heitkamp has good reason to articulate as many Republican-sounding positions as possible. North Dakota’s open Senate seat is critical for control of the upper chamber, and Republicans are trying to link her to Obama as much as possible in a state that almost certainly will overwhelmingly vote for Mitt Romney in November.