Around the U.S. in 50 Days: Minnesota

Besides the Presidential sweepstakes in Minnesota, there is also a Senate race and eight Congressional seats up for grabs. Throw in some redistricting drama and the general weirdness of the Minnesota voters and the state can be potentially perilous for the GOP in 2012. So much depends on the movement of district lines here and there and the entire dynamic can change. In addition, Minnesota has one of the latest redistricting deadlines in the country.
Some have looked to the north for an opportunity for the GOP to pick up 10 electoral votes. I do not see it happening. The population, at large, despite pockets of conservatism, has a progressive streak that allows this state, like Wisconsin to the east, to be one of those states where it is hard to get a read on their political proclivities. However, it would be foolish at this point to expect a Republican victory out of this state. One major reason is that while Obama’s approval ratings nationally are in the mid 40s, in Minnesota they have been consistently over the 50% mark. I really do not expect it to drop in the future, but may actually increase. I think that we can safely assume that the 10 electoral votes go to Obama in 2012.
In the Senate, incumbent Democrat Amy Klobuchar seeks her second term in the Senate. She has a clear, unchallenged path to the nomination facing a token primary challenge from perennial candidate Dick Franson. In 2006, Klobuchar won with 58% of the vote. The problem for the GOP is finding a top tier candidate to at least make this race close. Norm Coleman, who lost a protracted legal battle against Al Franken (see what I mean about Minnesota voters?) passed on a chance to challenge the incumbent as did state senator Dave Thompson, the most outspoken and recognizable state legislator. That pretty much leaves state representative Dan Severson. Severson was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party. But there is a serious problem from the start. Klobuchar has a war chest of $5.1 million and rising for an election ten months away. In his one filing, Severson had raised $3,700. To put that in perspective, that Democratic perennial candidate mentioned earlier raised $5,700. In one interview, he stated that a donor mentioned that it was the consensus Klobuchar would win and it made greater sense to financially support her.
Instead, Severson has said he will use other means to paint Klobuchar as a stone cold liberal out of step with the basic values of most Minnesotans. Another possible strategy will be to somehow link and relate Klobuchar to Al Franken. Severson has asserted that corruption in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office is what guaranteed the win for Franken in the first place. In fact, all three potential major announced candidates for the GOP nomination may actually be way to the right for Minnesota voters. Preliminary polls indicate Klobuchar will win by about a 20 point margin. In the end, it would seem unreasonable to honestly expect the GOP to take this seat. Given her advantage in so many areas, Klobuchar will be returned to the Senate.
A lot will depend on redistricting when it comes to the House races. That will not occur until late February. Since Minnesota neither gains nor loses any seats, changes will reflect population shifts in the state. The 1st District currently stretches along the southern length of Minnesota and is represented by Democrat Tim Walz in what is nominally considered a Republican area. If Republicans are going to gain any seats in Minnesota, it will be in the name of Mike Parry who will likely oppose Walz. However, Walz has the advantage of incumbency and a sizable war chest.
John Kline should win reelection in the 2nd. Erik Paulson, another Republican, represents the 3rd. In actuality, he would be a formidable foe in the Senate race, but he declined the opportunity to run against an incumbent. Al Franken may be a better target. Sharon Sund should be his opponent. In the 4th, Betty McCollum faces little chance of losing as does Democrat Keith Ellison in the 5th, although Republican challenger Lynne Torgerson shows some life.
In the 7th, Democrat Colin Peterson will likely face Lee Byberg in a race that will likely be closer than most people are thinking. However, I believe that Peterson will prevail. In the 8th District, if Republicans think they can pick off Tim Walz, the Democrats have a chance to pick off Chip Cravaak in the 8th. He will face a very serious challenger in Tarryl Clark who last ran against Michelle Bachmann in the 6th.
Which brings us to the 6th District currently held by Bachmann. Redistricting may very well alter her district to the point that she will have more difficulty in 2012 than in the past. Truth be told, her margins of victory in the past have not been stellar. With the more liberal elements encroaching on her territory, she faces a tough challenge from here on out. Minnesota law prohibited her from running for two federal offices at the same time so she had to suspend her congressional campaigning when she declared her Presidential run. With that now officially ended, she can concentrate on things back home. She has star quality and maintains a high profile and can easily raise money. Additionally, no Democrat has declared their candidacy. However, despite a Bachmann in 2012, her days are numbered and 2014 may be the end of the road for her House career. That would most likely mean that she would consider a run against the vulnerable Al Franken.
In conclusion, Minnesota’s ten electoral votes will go to Obama while Klobuchar will return to the Senate. I cannot see a change in the Congressional delegation as far as numbers go. However, there may very well be a swap of sorts where the Democrats lose Walz and the Republicans lose Cravaak.

Running totals thus far:
Obama with 93 votes to 107 for the GOP nominee;
Net gain of 2 Governors;
Net gain of 3 Senate seats, and;
Net loss of 6 House seats.

Next: Iowa