MINOT, N.D. — Heidi Heitkamp's post-Senate career has been incongruous with the realities of her political accomplishments.
For the last two years, she's been heralded, by national Democrats and the national news media, as an expert on rural Americans and their political issues.
A sort of rube whisperer for the progressives, if you will.
This despite Heitkamp having won just one electoral contest in rural America, by thinnest of razor-thin margins, in the last almost two-and-a-half decades. In 2018, Heitkamp's campaign quadrupled her challenger Kevin Cramer's spending and still managed to lose decisively.
Heitkamp's qualifications as an expert on rural politics are dubious, at best.
Still, in the galaxy of people President-elect Joe Biden could potentially appoint to his cabinet, Heitkamp would be a good choice. For North Dakota, specifically, and for rural Americans, generally.
She's probably about the best America's Republican-leaning rural areas could hope for from a Democratic administration.
Politico reports that Heitkamp is at the top of the candidate list for Biden's Secretary of Agriculture. Heitkamp has probably turned down that gig once before when it was 2016, and newly-elected President Donald Trump was seemingly offering it to her, but she was a sitting U.S. Senator back then. Taking the appointment would have enraged her fellow Democrats, not just for going to work for the enemy, but because a Republican would have filled Heitkamp's vacated Senate seat.
Heitkamp is out of office now, and her appetite for the attention and political power denied her by voters isn't sated.
She has been not-so-transparently campaigning for this appointment for two years.
She may well get it, though our Democratic friends seem to value identity over all else these days.
Her skin color may be her downfall.
Per Politico, Heitkamp's top competitor for the appointment is Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Democrat from Ohio, and the Congressional Black Caucus's preferred appointment.
Biden chose a Black woman as his running mate after being pressured to do so. Is he likely to eschew a Black woman for this cabinet position after an election where Trump increased his vote share from Black and Hispanic voters?
It is a repugnant reality of modern politics that skin color counts in these matters, but it does matter.
Heitkamp's other problem is that she has spent her career being pro-coal and pro-oil, not to mention a proponent of production agriculture, much to the environmentalists' chagrin.
They're likely to support someone like Fudge as well, or perhaps Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, though she's the incumbent in a competitive district and House Democrats may not want to lose her.
The counterbalance in Heitkamp's favor is that Biden, for the moment, wants to appear moderate. Appointing a Democrat from Trump country to his administration, even if she doesn't have the preferred skin pigmentation or environmental views, is a good way to beef up that facade.
And, who knows, maybe Biden actually desires to be moderate and would be willing to listen when Heitkamp tells him that oil pipelines aren't inherently evil, that coal still has a place in modern energy markets, and that giving federal bureaucrats the power to declare a puddle in a farmer's field a protected wetland is a bad idea.
Believe it or not, I'm rooting for Heitkamp.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.