After Republican U.S. Representative Jim Ramstad announced his retirement Monday, effective at the end of this term (his 9th), the buzz around Minnesota politics was that his open seat would produce a competitive Congressional District race—one that was ripe for the picking for the DFL.
And there is data to back up this notion.
Smart Politics examined election returns in 2006 and compared it to the previous non-presidential election in 2002.
In gubernatorial races, the margin of victory for Republican Tim Pawlenty decreased by 7.1 points in the district from 2002 to 2006.
In 2002, the GOP held a 16.4-point victory margin in the Norm Coleman-Walter Mondale U.S. Senate race. In 2006 Amy Klobuchar beat GOP-er Mark Kennedy by 14.5 points—a 30.9-point net loss for the Republicans in the 3rd C.D..
But these recent races for Governor and U.S. Senate may have been driven more by the personalities of the top-of-the-ticket candidates rather than an actual change in political temperature in the 3rd District.
As such, Smart Politics also examined lower-ticket races in the district. The 3rd Congressional District is home to 18 state house districts—14 completely comprised in the 3rd, and 4 partially in the 3rd.
In 2002, 14 of these 18 districts voted for the GOP candidate. In 2006, 9 went to the DFL, 9 to the GOP. Moreover, the GOP lost ground in 17 of these 18 races, losing an average of 21 net points per district.
This data suggests that if the DFL is able to nominate a moderate candidate for the 3rd C.D. race, that candidate may actually emerge as a narrow favorite for this open GOP seat. Of course, 2006 was an extraordinary year for Democrats nationwide, and in the Gopher State. Whether or not the national political scene influences this climate in the 3rd District (and, if so, how) remains to be seen.