The biggest factor in North Dakota's federal races this cycle - one for the U.S. Senate, the other for the House - may well be President Donald Trump.
It shouldn't be that way. In a perfect world the political campaigns would consists of the candidates making meaningful arguments for the best approach to national and international issues facing our state.
In reality the campaigns - especially the U.S. Senate race between North Dakota political titans Kevin Cramer and Heidi Heitkamp - will likely be a nasty little microcosm for the ugly state of affairs on the national political stage.
I got a bit of an introduction into how ugly things will be this week.
Julia Krieger, a veteran of obnoxiously awful left wing groups like American Bridge and Media Matters For America, apparently drunk on the noxious fumes of the national political swamp, is serving as Sen. Heitkamp's communications director this cycle.
When I wrote on SayAnythingBlog.com this week about a seeming bit of under-the-radar coordination between Heitkamp's campaign and a political action committee aligned with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Krieger came after me on Twitter.
To be clear, Sen. Heitkamp's people didn't bother to respond to my request for comment for my post. They never, ever respond to any of my requests for comment or information or interviews. But Krieger, again Heitkamp's campaign communications director, did take the time to accuse me in an angry storm of tweets of being part of some nefarious political plot involving the Koch Brothers.
It's only March, folks.
We're not even in the heat of campaign season yet. If Heitkamp's campaign is already directing that sort of venom at lowly political writers like me this early in the cycle, what's it going to be like in October?
Maybe that's just how politics is going to be these days, and Trump is as much to blame for it as anyone.
Which brings me back to the point of this column. How North Dakotans feel about Donald Trump is going to be a major concern for all of the candidates on the statewide ballot this year, particularly the federal candidates.
The various campaigns will be polling furiously, and while most of that polling won't be released publicly, we will be able to glean some things from how the candidates behave.
So far, Trump must still be polling strongly in North Dakota. Sen. Heitkamp and House candidate Mac Schneider have largely avoided criticizing the President in any meaningful way. Instead they've worked hard to illustrate the ways in which they agree with the President.
The Republican candidates, meanwhile, are competing with one another to see who can be more closely aligned with Trump.
If those situations remain the status quo it's likely to be a good year for Republicans. If it changes, if both the Democrats and Republicans begin to change their positions on Trump, it's likely Trump is becoming less popular. Which would be good news for the Democrats.