Pence laces into Sen. Heitkamp at private event

WASHINGTON — North Dakota "could do a whole lot better" than Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday at a private fundraising event for her Republican rival.

"Sen. 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, according to a person at the small gathering of political luminaries and donors in Fargo.

"I mean, it's time that North Dakota voted no on Heidi Heitkamp's re-election," the vice president added in support of her challenger, GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer.

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Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota)
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Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 14: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N. Dak., speaks during the Senate Democrats' news conference to unveil the FAMILY Act on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 14: Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., left, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., talk during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled 'The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress,' featuring testimony by Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, February 14, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 28: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N. Dak., speaks during the Senate Democrats news conference on tax reform in the Capitol on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 08: Neil Gorsuch, Supreme Court Justice nominee, meets with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in her Hart Building office, February 8, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 11: U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) (L) speaks as Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) (R) listens during a news briefing after the weekly Senate Democratic Policy Luncheon July 11, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer discussed various topics including Senate's delaying its recess to the third week of August. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 20: From left, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., attend a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing in Dirksen Building on unauthorized accounts opened under customers' names at Wells Fargo featuring testimony by CEO John Stumpf, September 20, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 25: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) speaks to the media about immigration, after attending a bipartisan meeting in Sen. Susan Collins office, on Capitol Hill January 25, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp and Former Majority Leader, United States Senate & U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George J. Mitchell speak at the 2016 Concordia Summit - Day 1 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)
U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) talks to reporters as she arrives for the weekly Democratic party caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 21: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (R-ND),(C), speaks while flanked by bipartian Senate colleagues during a news conference on Capitol Hill, June 21, 2016 in Washington, DC. Heitkamp and a bipartisan group of Senators announced a measure that would block people on the Transportation Security Administration� no-fly list from buying firearms. The measure also includes a list that would subject individuals to additional screening before boarding a plane. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) speaks next to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) at a news conference with a bipartisan group of senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., to unveil a compromise proposal on gun control measures, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Women senators testify during a Senate Foreign Relations sub-committee hearing on 'Combating Violence and Discrimination Against Women: A Global Call to Action' on Capitol Hill in Washington . From right are Senators Elizabeth Warren, Patty Murray, Heidi Heitkamp, and Mazie K. Hirono. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
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With Republicans trying to maintain or expand their 51-49 majority in the Senate, North Dakota is one of their best pickup opportunities for the GOP in the country this year. Heitkamp won her seat by about 3,000 votes in 2012. And while President Donald Trump's presence isn't seen as a boon for many Republicans this year, he won North Dakota with 63 percent of the vote in 2016.

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.

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Vice President Mike Pence through the years
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Vice President Mike Pence through the years

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., Derek Karachner, Ian Slatter, Molly Jurmu, Mark Ahearn.

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Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., talk during the markup of the bill which would establish the Department of Homeland Security.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

(L-R) Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), attorney Floyd Abrams, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and attorney Kenneth Starr speak to reporters in the U.S. Supreme Court Plaza in Washington, D.C., September 8, 2003. Attorneys made arguments during a special session of the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign financing reform law.

(REUTERS/Stefan Zaklin)

Rep. Mike Pence, new head of the Republican conservative caucus, taken in his Hill office. Includes a bust of Ronald Reagan.

(Photo by Robert A. Reeder/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) and Indiana Governor Mike Pence (L) wave to the crowd before addressing the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana, July 12, 2016.

(REUTERS/John Sommers II)

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 07: Mike Pence, R-Ind.

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MEET THE PRESS

Pictured: Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) left, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010.

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U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence arrives at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 13, 2016.

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President-elect Donald Trump takes the stage with Vice President-elect Mike Pence during a rally in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016.

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Vice President-elect Mike Pence arrives at Trump Tower on December 15, 2016 in New York City. President-Elect Donald Trump continues to hold meetings with potential members of his cabinet at his office.

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Tim Kaine, 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, left, and Mike Pence, 2016 Republican vice presidential nominee, speak during the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine arrive at tonight's debate with three main assignments: defend their bosses from attack, try to land a few blows, and avoid any mistakes showing them unfit to be president.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (R) as his wife Karen Pence holds the Bible, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.

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Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Chrysler Group LLC and Fiat SpA, left, speaks with Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, at the Chrysler Group transmission plant in Kokomo, Indiana, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Chrysler Group LLC, the automaker majority owned by Fiat SpA, will invest about $374 million and add 1,250 jobs at Indiana factories to boost output of eight-and nine-speed transmissions.

(Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - JULY 25: Mike Pence--IND

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Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., left, and Mike Pence, R-Ind, share a laugh at a rally to support a House resolution, scheduled for a vote Thursday, that would require a list of earmarks and the names of lawmakers sponsoring them to be contained in committee and conference reports. The rally took place on Cannon Terrace.

(Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)

US Republican Representative from Indiana Mike Pence, gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, 01 April 2007. Pence and a group of US Congressmen are on a visit to the war-torn country.

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Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., makes marks on the House health care bill as House Republicans gathered in the House Republicans Reading Room in the Longworth House Office Building on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009.

(Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) speaks during a rally on Capitol Hill April 6, 2011 in Washington, DC. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), thought to be a contender for the 2012 presidential race, also spoke at the rally held on Capitol Hill by Americans for Prosperity in support of spending cuts.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

House Budget chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., speaks with Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., as they arrive for a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the basement of the U.S. Capitol on Monday, July 25, 2011.

(Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is seen at the 2015 IPL 500 Festival Parade on May 23, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) while Vice President Mike Pence (C) looks on during a luncheon at the Congress of Tomorrow Republican Member Retreat January 26, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Congressional Republicans are gathering for three days to plan their 2017 legislative agenda.

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US Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence dance during the Liberty ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

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From left, First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Major General Bradley Becker, Vice President Mike Pence, and his wife Karen Pence review the troops following the swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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"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."

And that's why North Dakotans can expect to see Trump in their state soon. "I promise you the president of the United States will be back in North Dakota," Pence said.

Known for his message discipline, the vice president delivered remarks at a public appearance later in the day that were similar to those he gave behind closed doors.

"The truth is Heidi Heitkamp hasn't been putting North Dakota first, and I don't know about the rest of you, but I think the people of North Dakota deserve better," Pence said at the public event, which was staged by America First Policies, a tax-exempt group started by former Trump campaign and White House advisers to promote his agenda.

The Heitkamp campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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