Heidi Heitkamp squeezed dozens of hands and posed for pictures with college students at North Dakota State University recently, bubbling with characteristic exuberance that belied the Democratic senator’s uncertain future.

“I want everybody to just do something for me,” Heitkamp said, her voice hoarse. “Everybody stand up! I want you to reach as high as you can. Now, I want you to reach about six inches higher. That’s what we’ve got to do to win! We’ve got to go higher.”

An already tenuous bid for a second term has taken on new urgency for Heitkamp since she voted against Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Heitkamp is scrambling to find her footing amid fears that the race against Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer is slipping away, and with it Democrats’ slim hopes of a Senate majority.

READ: Poll: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp Down 10 Points to Republican Challenger

“Are we facing some headwinds? Yep,” Heitkamp said in an Associated Press interview. “But I’ve faced headwinds before, and won.”

Heitkamp has been betting for months that her image as an independent collaborator — someone who could go along with President Donald Trump, but challenge him when needed — could carry her to another term in GOP-heavy North Dakota.

Trailing in polls, including her own campaign’s, with three weeks until Election Day, Heitkamp plans to essentially camp out in North Dakota, especially its more politically independent eastern side.

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