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When Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., visited our office a few weeks ago I asked him to name his top three concerns — issues that could hurt his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

He said his No. 1 concern was what might happen with President Donald Trump's trade wars and North American Free Trade Agreeement, and the resulting tariffs. But he expressed optimism, if not certainty, that Trump was simply posturing, using tariffs as a negotiating tool. Conversely, he said that resolution to NAFTA, and to other trade issues, would be most helpful to his campaign.

When I visited with Heitkamp this week I asked her the same question. Not surprisingly, her answers were the same as Cramer’s, only in reverse.

In other words, what benefits her campaign most is the president's trade wars and tariffs and what would hurt her campaign most would be for those issues to be resolved in short order.

Let me be clear, neither candidate is pleased with the impact Trump's ill-advised trade policy is having on North Dakotans, but both recognize the political reality: that each of their campaigns is helped and/or hurt by the same issues.

Given that the president won North Dakota by a huge margin it’s fair to say that it’s Cramer’s race to lose; but lose it he may. While the president is popular here, his trade war and the resulting tariffs are damaging to North Dakota and North Dakotans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently quantified it; $61 million. At this site you can see the impact to each state: www.uschamber.com/tariffs

It is far too early to predict a winner in this race, but it’s a safe bet to predict that trade and tariffs will be the decisive issue because people still vote with their pocketbook.

Gary Adkisson is publisher of the Bismarck Tribune.

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