Vice President Mike Pence said at a private fundraising event Tuesday that North Dakota "could do a whole lot better" than Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.).
Pence spoke at an event for Heitkamp's Republican challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer, when he made the comments, hitting her on several votes against Republican policies, according to a person at the gathering of political luminaries and donors in Fargo.
"Senator Heitkamp voted no on tax cuts, no on repealing and replacing Obamacare, no on cracking down on sanctuary cities, no on repealing the anti-energy methane rule—she voted no on a 20-week abortion ban," Pence said. "I mean, it's time that North Dakota voted no on Heidi Heitkamp's re-election."
Republicans believe that picking up North Dakota is one of their best opportunities to maintain or expand their 51-49 majority in the Senate since President Donald Trump won the state with 63 percent of the vote back in 2016, according to NBC News:
Speaking to a group that included oil tycoon Harold Hamm, Gov. Doug Burgum and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Pence framed the campaign as a contrast between a sitting senator who often opposes Trump and a challenger who marches in lock step with him.
To get Trump's policies enacted — from tax cuts to regulatory reductions and increased defense spending — "the key to all of it is that we have partners" in Congress, Pence said.
"North Dakota could do a whole lot better than Sen. Heidi Heitkamp," he said, according to the person in the room. "Heidi's nice. I've got a great relationship with her. I'd just like her to have a little more free time."
Pence said the North Dakota race is particularly high on Trump's priority list because Cramer was one of his earliest political supporters and has been one of his most loyal allies on Capitol Hill.
"We've got competitive Senate races all over the country, but I lost count of the number of times the president said to me, ‘What about Kevin Cramer? Have you talked to Kevin Cramer lately?'" Pence said, according to the person in the room. "There's something about him from early on that just really connected with the president."
While Heitkamp's campaign did not immediately respond to NBC News for comment about Pence's remarks, one of her spokespeople, Julia Krieger, highlighted how Heitkamp was instrumental in helping Trump's Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch get confirmed.
"It wasn't too long ago that Vice President Pence came to North Dakota and praised Heidi as a ‘strong leader,' noting her ‘great relationship' with him and President Trump," Krieger said.
Heitkamp has attempted to distance herself from Democrats attacking Trump as she faces an uphill re-election bid. She ripped Hilary Clinton earlier this month when responding to a question about Clinton getting out of public life.
That prompted her to say, "not soon enough" in response to Clinton's controversial comments in India about Trump voters, when she called them bigoted and backwards.