Donald Trump
Credit: Michael Vadon/Flickr

Here’s an interesting theory. Did Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota disingenuously encourage speculation that they might join the Trump administration in order to win points with their constituents?

With West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin getting passed over for job in the Trump administration, Democrats are now waiting to see whether North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp also stays in the Senate. According to the New York Times, Republican leaders have been pushing Trump to tap a Democratic senator for his cabinet, but he hasn’t played along, picking former Texas Gov. Rick Perry over both Manchin and Heitkamp to head the Department of Energy.

Heitkamp is still reportedly under consideration for agriculture secretary, but former North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan says Heitkamp has “indicated she will not join” Trumpworld, in the words of the Times. In fact, unnamed Republicans are now fretting that Heitkamp and Manchin have never had any intention of abandoning the Democrats and have just been playing Trump to earn positive headlines back home. This is, of course, the kind of game politicians have played since the dawn of time, but it just feels unaccountably gross when Trump’s involved. We’ll have to see if anyone cares either way in two years’ time.

Now, Manchin was awarded a position in the Senate Democrat leadership team, as well as a seat on the Appropriations and Intelligence committees. I’m having trouble finding what committee assignments Heitkamp received. Both of them are going to have a hell of a time getting reelected based on the drift of the states they represent, but a lot will depend on whether the people of West Virginia and North Dakota are happy with the Trump administration in two years.

Could be that having played footsie with Trump doesn’t look like much of a positive in November 2018, even in dirty energy-producing Trump strongholds of the country.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at