The REAL Minnesota House Race To Watch

For such a contentious year and such a politically odd state as Minnesota, it is not sporting a great deal of competitive house races this year.  There are two safe Republican seats:  John Kline (MN-02) and Erik Paulsen (MN-03).  On the other side, there are four seemingly safe Democrat seats:  Betty McCollum (MN-04), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Collin Peterson (MN-07) and Jim Oberstar (MN-08).

The race garnering all of the national attention is MN-06, where Republican incumbent and rising star Michele Bachmann faces Democrat challenger Tarryl Clark, a state Senator.  The truth of this race, as much as Democrats don’t want to admit it, is that Clark doesn’t have a hope in hell, and the Democrats are throwing their money down a rat hole in trying to sink the Bachmann ship.  Bachmann was able to win in 2006 and 2008 (big Democratic years) with little experience against a sympathetic — if completely unqualified — challenger in Amy Wetterling.  Now, with Bachmann being a Tea Party All-Star and quite popular, she is not going to lose to a well-known tax-and-spend liberal in Clark in this political environment.  While I welcome the Democrats to keep sinking their money in this race and killing their chances elsewhere, their only real chance of getting rid of Bachmann is to win the Governor’s race and re-district her out.  (In that case, Democrats might want to get used to the idea of “Senator Bachmann”, but that’s for another time.)

The race that has really been overlooked here is MN-01, where Democrat incumbent Tim Walz faces state representative Randy Demmer, the Assistant Minority Leader in the Minnesota House.  Earlier this week, Derek Wallbank of the Minnesota Post looked at this race and district:

The 1st is a bellwether district — in the 2000 and 2004 presidential election it went for Republican George W. Bush but in 2008 it went for Democrat Barack Obama. In all three cases, the winner took no more than 51 percent of the vote.

Yet representatives here have a history of running ahead of their parties. In 2004, then-GOP Rep. Gil Gutknecht took 60 percent of the vote when his presidential party-mate George W. Bush got just 51 percent.

In 2008, when Obama took 51 percent of the vote in the 1st (besting John McCain by four points), Walz took 62.5 percent in a walkover, nearly doubling the vote total of his closest competitor.

Going into this cycle, this was a district that Republicans had targeted, but it seems to have fallen off the radar with Republicans surging in many other unexpected places.  Oddly, there has been a complete lack of polling in this race, but Wallbank’s article also had this interesting nugget:

No neutral polling has been conducted in the district so far. Demmer’s camp says they haven’t conducted internal polls and Walz’s team declined to release their own numbers.

One would think that if Walz was doing well, he’d be happy to say so.  Something tells me that the picture isn’t looking quite as rosy as Walz thinks it should.

Walz is still doing slightly better in fundraising and has about $1 million in cash on hand, which would normally be a big advantage, but this isn’t necessarily a year where that is going to matter.  The primary problem Walz has is this:  he was able to get himself elected by posing as a conservative, but now he’s got the dueling millstones of Obamacare and cap-and-trade around his neck (he happily voted for both), which means his opponent now has some evidence to show this mildly conservative district that Walz is really an unapologetic liberal.

Demmer, meanwhile, has done OK in fundraising, keeping up with Walz reasonably well, but he hasn’t gotten a lot of help from the national party.  Given the number of seats the Republicans seem to think are in play, this isn’t surprising; there’s only so much money to go around.  The national party is starting to take notice of Demmer, however, and they seem to think they have a shot here, which means that perhaps it will get more attention.  Demmer has been added to the “Young Guns” list, a list of up-and-coming Republicans that they hope can lead a new wave of representation on the national scene.

So if you’re looking to help a good Republican candidate in Minnesota, this is a good place to look.