GOP struggles to woo candidates in states where Trump won

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
In this May 26, 2016, file photo, North Dakota state Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, speaks in Bismarck, N.D.

BISMARCK, North Dakota (AP) — Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota got a hard sell last week from President Donald Trump, who gave Cramer and his wife a personal tour of the West Wing and used the gilded luster of the newly renovated Oval Office to entreat Cramer to challenge popular Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

It didn't work: Cramer turned down Trump, who had also called him about the race last fall.

It's the latest in a string of complications for Senate Republicans, who are clinging to a paper-thin majority and entering a midterm election year saddled with Trump's low approval ratings and a history of losses for the party in power.

"The president made a very patriotic case for me to run for the Senate seat, and told me he would be behind me 100 percent and campaign for me and with me," Cramer told The Associated Press.

But Cramer couldn't resist the pull of his family and of his position in Congress. "I don't want to be away every weekend, around the country and raising money when I have a 10-year-old at home and four grandchildren."

His decision came as Republicans in Ohio scrambled to find a replacement on the ballot for Josh Mandel, the favorite in the GOP Senate race who left the race Friday out of concern for his wife's health. Now the possibility looms of a primary race between four-term Rep. Jim Renacci and investor and author J. D. Vance, a contest that could leave the nominee hobbled.

Ohio and North Dakota are among the 10 states that Trump won in 2016 that have Democrats running for re-election. Republicans hold a 51-to-49 edge in the Senate, a margin narrowed last month by Alabama Democrat Doug Jones' surprise win over Republican Roy Moore a special election.