Sabatos Crystal Ball

Minnesota Races

House Outlook for 2008

Will the GOP Swing the Pendulum Back?

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Minnesota (01)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


September 16, 2008 Update:

What did state senator Dick Day gain from skipping the Republican nominating convention in April? Not too much. After the convention delegates enthusiastically endorsed his opponent, physician Brian Davis, the party establishment coalesced behind the former political outsider. Davis’ fundraising soared while GOP leaders urged Day to drop the race for months. In last Tuesday’s primary, Day finally got the message, going down in defeat by a two to one margin (67-33) and potentially damaging his chances at a future bid for higher office. Davis, on the other hand, exits the primary with momentum and the support of the Republican base at his back. However, it remains a tall task for Davis to translate his primary performance into general election success against the well-financed and mistake-free incumbent, Tim Walz.

June 2, 2008 Update:

A mid-May poll conducted by Rep. Tim Walz showed him sitting pretty against either of his two most-likely opponents. Against state senator Dick Day, Walz led 57-22 and against Mayo Clinic doctor Brian Davis, Walz held a 60-20 advantage. Both Republicans also have a financial disadvantage, as they have each raised just over $200,000 compared to Walz’s $1.6 million with over $1 million still in the bank. While Davis won the endorsement of the state GOP in mid-April, he still must face Day in a primary on September 9 for the right to face Walz in November.


Background

This race still needs time to develop. As of now, Representative Tim Walz appears to be on the right track to reelection. In his first two years, he has avoided serious mistakes and carved out a moderate voting record. His fundraising continues to impress, as well, piling up over $1M in contributions in 2007 alone.

In comparison, Waltz’s strongest competitor, state senator Dick Day has raised only $210K to date and other candidates including state representative Randy Demmer and oncologist Brian Davis have enjoyed considerably less financial success. Barring any further developments, Walz remains a strong favorite for reelection in the fall.

Candidates

Tim Walz (I) – Democrat – current Congressman
Website

Brian Davis – Republican – oncologist at Mayo Clinic
Website

Dick Day – Republican – state Senator, former state Senate Minority Leader
Website

Minnesota (03) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


April 16, 2008 Update:

Call off the coronation, Iraq war veteran Ashwin Madia just crashed the party! Culminating an impressive turnaround in momentum, Madia capitalized on grassroots activist support to defeat the once-presumptive nominee Terri Bonoff at the district’s nominating convention. Waiting in the wings for the young Democrat is state representative Erik Paulsen, who has quietly amassed a sizeable campaign warchest and campaign infrastructure. Unlike Paulsen, Madia is an unknown commodity to Minnesota voters, and faces fundraising and name identification deficits, but for a former Republican who supported Dole in ’96 and McCain in ’00, he will be difficult to paint as a classic DFL liberal.

March 26, 2008 Update:

Oh, the tables have turned in the Democratic primary! When state senator Terri Bonoff entered the race last year, district insiders assumed she would be the nominee. Now, Iraq war veteran Ashwin Madia has surged into the lead on the back of grassroots activist support. In the eleven Democratic county conventions, Madia has won nine and built a 81.5-65 delegate lead over Bonoff with 95 delegates needed to win. Bonoff has a commanding lead in superdelegates (15 to 2), however, reflecting her solid establishment support. Both candidates have pledged to abide by the results of the district convention on April 12th, but it is far from certain which Democrat will emerge to face Erik Paulsen in November.


Background

Rep. Jim Ramstad’s decision to retire sent both parties scrambling to fill a competitive seat. Currently, Republicans seem to have an upper hand in state representative Erik Paulsen who banked an impressive $390K in the fourth quarter of 2007 and leads all Democrats in cash on hand.

The Democrats face a crowded primary between state senator Terri Bonoff, Edina mayor Jim Hovland, and Iraq war veteran Ashwin Madia with Bonoff the current frontrunner. Bonoff has secured the coveted endorsement of former Vice President and Minnesota icon Walter Mondale, but the more moderate Hovland, a recent Republican convert, may be a better fit for the marginal district. With strong fundraising and an uncontested primary, Paulsen stands in prime position to retain Ramstad’s seat, but can he overcome the pro-Democratic national mood to win this swing district?

Candidates

Ashwin Madia – Democrat – Iraq War veteran, attorney
Website

Erik Paulsen – Republican – state representative
Website

Minnesota (06)

Outlook: Toss-up


Background

The old adage about how quickly politics can change may seem trite. But its examples continue to astound. Case in point: freshman Republican incumbent Michele Bachmann was set for another probable victory. She had wrapped up a competitive 2006 election with a convincing 50%-42% win. President Bush won the district comfortably by more than 10 percent margins in 2000 and 2004. And, as of last month, she was out-funding her Democratic opponent Elwyn Ticklenberg by close to a million dollars.

Then, on October 17, Bachmann decided to bathe in the national spotlight with another one of her cable news interviews – this time on Chris Matthews’ Hardball on MSNBC. When pressed to comment about Barack Obama, she indicated he “may have anti-American views”. She also called for an investigation into members of Congress for harboring anti-American sentiments.

Bam! Within minutes, the race shifted. Within 24 hours of her interview, 9,000 donors nationwide poured half a million dollars to the Ticklenberg campaign from across the country. Bachmann tried to finesse her statements but, as her opponent’s spokesman put it, the fire had been lit. Within three days, the funding lead over he
r opponent evaporated. Republicans distanced themselves from her, while former Secretary of State Colin Powell dismissed it as “nonsense”. Democrats were outraged, denouncing her statements as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) injected over a million into the race.

 

Ticklenberg already had a decent chance at winning even before the saga broke out. He picked up a key endorsement from the Independence Party, which is significant considering that 8 percent of the vote went to a third-party candidate in 2006. He also enjoys some name recognition having lost the Democratic nomination in 2006 and an election in 2004. Republicans are also facing trying times at the national level during this election cycle. But it can’t hurt him to have received the electoral equivalent of a gift from God. Bachmann must be kicking herself for making this race much more competitive than it should have been. Maybe she shouldn’t have played Hard Ball.

Candidates

Michele Bachmann (I) – Republican – Current U.S. Representative
Website

Elwyn Ticklenberg – Democrat – 2006 Democratic primary candidate, former mayor and transportation commissioner
Website