McFeely: Trump, of course, is the rock star at Fargo rally

FARGO--Yes, Rep. Kevin Cramer got some needed love at President Donald Trump's rally at Scheels Arena. But he wasn't the star. That would be the president himself, of course. And U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp? She tooks hits from Trump, but the presid...
President Donald Trump enters Scheels Arena in Fargo on Wednesday, June 27, 2018.David Samson / The Forum

FARGO-Yes, Rep. Kevin Cramer got some needed love at President Donald Trump's rally at Scheels Arena. But he wasn't the star.

That would be the president himself, of course.

And U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp? She tooks hits from Trump, but the president didn't get personal and didn't brand her with a nickname, as he's done to other Democrats he opposes.

But Trump's message was clear: North Dakota needs to send Cramer to the Senate because he will vote with the president all the time.

Trump's rally in North Dakota's largest city-like rallies he's held in other cities-was part rock concert, part theater, part political rally and mostly about Trump.

In a 70-minute speech to a raucously supportive crowd, with thousands wearing red "Make America Great Again" caps and waving blue "Drain The Swamp" and "Keep America Great" signs, Cramer received several minutes to make his case and Trump gave him a handful of shout-outs.

Cramer told the president he'd be with him "100 percent of the time." That appears to be Cramer's strategy to motivate Republican voters in November-that he will continue to be an unquestioning Trump supporter.

"He did good," the president said approvingly after Cramer's brief speech, before taking several minutes to attack Heitkamp.

Mostly, the president and other speakers tried to tie Heitkamp to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and the newest Republican villain, Rep. Maxine Waters of California.

Those "elites" from either coast have clearly been poll-tested and clearly are not popular in North Dakota, as the boos from the crowd indicated each time their names were mentioned. Trump hit Heitkamp on voting "no" on the Senate repeal of Obamacare-although he took a harsher backhanded shot at Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is at home battling brain cancer. Trump also hit Heitkamp on voting against the GOP tax bill that passed, accused her of voting against cracking down on so-called "sanctuary cities" and not being a dependable vote on his next U.S. Supreme Court pick now that Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement-although Heitkamp did vote to confirm Trump's first appointee, the very conservative Neil Gorsuch. All the lines drew the expected hoots, hollers and boos from the partisan crowd.

"She may give us a couple of quickie votes before the election because she has to, but after the election she'll vote against us," Trump said.

But Trump preserved most of his fire-and the crowd most of its ire-for when he started riffing about immigration and his coveted wall along the U.S. border with Mexico ("Build that wall!" the crowd chanted). It's evident Trump and the GOP see the path to victory in the midterms as focusing on immigration. The loudest cheers didn't come when the president talked about Cramer or Heitkamp, they came when he mentioned the Supreme Court upholding his travel ban and how immigration agents are throwing MS-13 gang members out of the country "by the thousands."

Seems odd, given that North Dakota is 1,500 miles from El Paso, Texas.

But that, and Trump talking about himself and his accomplishments, is what got the crowd most vocal. Cramer got what he needed, but took a backseat to Trump. As expected.