With just under two months to go until the congressional midterm elections, Democratic North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is not backing down to her Republican opponent Rep. Kevin Cramer. She is fighting back with a new television attack ad claiming the veteran congressman does not care about the impacts of a trade war on farmers.
In the 30-second TV spot first provided to CNBC, a farmer named Charles Linderman calls out Cramer, saying he doesn't seem to care about the cost of the tariffs being implemented by President Donald Trump.
"Mr. Cramer, that trade war is costing my family a lot of money and you don't seem to care," Linderman says.
The six-figure ad is expected to run statewide for the next several weeks on TV and digital platforms.
In an exclusive interview with CNBC on Thursday, Heitkamp described Cramer as a lackey for the president and said she would not be changing her methods of, at times, opposing Trump if she were re-elected.
"I think his audience is an audience of one and I think that's the president. I don't give my vote 100 percent of the time to anyone, unlike this guy," Heitkamp said in reference to her opponent. "I'm going to support him [Trump] when he's right and I'm going to oppose when he's hurting the state."
Trump's tariffs on more than $50 billion of Chinese imports have led to retaliatory measures equal to $34 billion worth of American farm products such as soybeans, corn, wheat and cotton, among others.
In response to Heitkamp's new blitz against Cramer, a spokesman for the North Dakota Republican Party said the senator's ad was proving she is politicizing those in the agricultural business as a way to win her re-election fight.
"Senator Heitkamp playing politics with our farmers and ranchers is hurting North Dakotans," said Jake Wilkins, a spokesman for the state's Republican Party said. "Her new ad is entitled 'Blame,' but when voters reject Heitkamp's blatant politicization of the agriculture community this November, the only person she'll have to blame is herself," he added.
The tariffs have negatively impacted people in her state, Heitkamp argues, and added that the worst may be yet to come.
"I think the first thing when you look at trade, you haven't seen the full impact. Fundamentally everyone had hoped by this time there would have been an agreement that we would have returned to shipping soybeans to China," she said. "That hasn't happened. As time goes on and you scratch the surface, people are getting more angry."
The president also has threatened to move ahead with another round of tariffs worth more than $200 billion on various Chinese products.
Still, throughout his campaign, Cramer has continued to back Trump's battles with China even though many of his constituents are some of the farmers getting hurt by the trade dispute.
In an interview in July with KVRR, a television station in North Dakota, Cramer said that he believed the only way to get through a trade war is to win.
"Some people are saying we need to get out of this trade war. There's only one thing to do in a trade war and that is win it," Cramer said at the time, according to KVRR's transcript of the interview. "It would be a lot easier for Donald Trump to win the trade war if the people who are supposed to be on his side would get behind him rather than fighting with him," he added.
Voters though have not shied away from supporting Cramer, even with his apparent need to show that he will follow the lead of the president if he were to knock out Heitkamp.
The latest Real Clear Politics average has the Republican congressman edging Heitkamp by just under 2 points. The state is marked as a toss-up by the nonpartisan Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball.
Cramer's campaign has also been given a boost by a plethora of outside spending groups looking to help flip Heitkamp's seat.
The Republican Jewish Coalition, a powerful nonprofit lobbying group that pushes for bettering U.S.-Israel relations, just spent more than $800,000 against Heitkamp, according to new Federal Election Commission filings. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, a group dedicating to helping Republicans get elected to the Senate has spent approximately $1 million in opposing Heitkamp, records show.
On the other hand, Cramer's attempts to side with Trump on enacting trade blockades have cost him the support of other external groups such as the political network funded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch.
Americans for Prosperity, the nonprofit organization linked to the Koch network, announced in July at its donor summit in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that it will not be supporting Cramer's bid for Senate.
Before the gathering, the group published a digital ad thanking Heitkamp for co-sponsoring the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, a bill that rolls back Dodd-Frank regulations mainly on community banks, or those with less than $100 billion in assets.