Trump doubles down for North Dakota's GOP Senate nominee amid tensions

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Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) speaks in Bismarck in 2016. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

President Trump doubled down Wednesday on his support for North Dakota’s Republican Senate nominee after the candidate complained that the White House was showing too much affinity for the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Trump tweeted congratulations for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) after he won his primary Tuesday night. Cramer had complained the White House was squandering the GOP’s chances in the North Dakota race, a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans as they defend their Senate majority, by giving Heitkamp preferential treatment.

Heitkamp “voted NO on our Tax Cuts, and always will vote no when we need her,” Trump tweeted. “Kevin is strong on Crime & Borders, big on Cutting Taxes!”

“We need Kevin in the Senate, and I strongly endorse him,” Trump wrote of Cramer, whom he personally recruited to run.

The president was active on Twitter after Tuesday’s primaries, criticizing Sen. Claire McCaskill (R-Mo.) amid reports that she used a private jet during what was billed as an RV tour of Missouri and congratulating Danny Tarkanian, a Nevada businessman who won a  House primary after Trump pushed him out of the state’s Senate race.

[Rep. Mark Sanford defeated in South Carolina after critical Trump tweet]

“Senator Claire McCaskill of the GREAT State of Missouri flew around in a luxurious private jet during her RV tour of the state,” Trump wrote, pledging support for Republican challenger Josh Hawley. “RV’s are not for her. People are really upset, so phony!”

McCaskill has defended her use of the private plane, saying she used it to add more stops to what was primarily an RV tour.

“Paying on my own dime to visit more Missouri veterans is not something I’m going to apologize for,” McCaskill said in a statement Wednesday.

Trump praised Tarkanian for his “great result” Tuesday night. “Looking good in November!” he wrote.

Trump’s praise of Cramer and criticism of Heitkamp comes after a rocky patch in the relationship between the White House and the North Dakota Republican. In recent weeks, Trump had refrained from attacking Heitkamp and in some cases had lauded her.

The Wshington Post reported this week that Cramer recently went to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly for help.

Trump has not traveled to North Dakota this year to campaign for Cramer, but Cramer said Trump told him he will. Republicans familiar with the situation said talks are underway to try to arrange a trip, perhaps as soon as the next few weeks.

Sean Sullivan contributed to this post.