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Can the DFL Win a 6th U.S. House Seat in 2010?

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As Minnesota faces the real prospect of losing its 8th U.S. House seat in the 2012 reapportionment, the DFL looks to close the current census period with a bang, by returning to its glory days of the 1990s when it controlled 6 of the Gopher State's Congressional districts.

One hurdle the DFL faces in 2010 is that the two districts they are targeting (the 3rd and, particularly, the 6th) are currently represented by the state's two most adept fundraisers: Republicans Erik Paulsen and Michele Bachmann. Representatives Paulsen and Bachmann have led the Minnesota U.S. House delegation in campaign funds raised for each of the first two quarters of 2009.

Through June, Bachmann had raised $598,811 with Paulsen not far behind at $578,208. By comparison, only one DFL Representative had raised over $338,000 during that span (Jim Oberstar, at $431,464).

Political observers will rightly point out that, even with the expected mid-term election pullback among the electorate towards the Republican Party, Bachmann and Paulsen need to more aggressively fundraise than their delegation counterparts as they represent the two most vulnerable districts in the state (and the two districts D.C. prognosticators frequently place in the "vulnerable" column).

But history shows there is one potential pathway for the DFL in their march towards six House seats, and that is by fielding a winning candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial contest.

Since the DFL merger in 1944 there has been a change in partisan control of the Governor's mansion 10 times. In 70 percent of these elections, there has also been a swing of at least one U.S. House seat for the party winning the gubernatorial contest, according to a Smart Politics analysis.

· In 1954, the DFL picked up one U.S. House seat (ousting 6-term incumbent Harold Hagen in the 9th) as DFLer Orville Freeman defeated Republican Governor C. Elmer Anderson in the gubernatorial race.

· In 1960, the GOP picked up one seat (defeating 6-term incumbent Roy Wier in the 3rd) while Republican Elmer L. Andersen defeated Governor Freeman.

· In 1962, when Minnesota's delegation was reduced to 8 seats after reapportionment, the DFL picked up one seat (beating 10-term incumbent Walter Judd in the 5th) as DFLer Karl Rolvaag defeated Governor Andersen. (Republicans lost an additional seat in the reapportionment cutback to eight districts).

· In 1966, the GOP regained control of the Governor's office, with Harold LeVander defeating Governor Rolvaag, and also picked up one U.S. House seat (beating 2-term DFL incumbent Alec Olson in the 6th).

· In 1970, control of the Governor's mansion changed for a fourth consecutive election in Minnesota as DFLer Wendell Anderson won the state's open gubernatorial contest. The DFL also picked up one U.S. House seat (defeating 6-term Republican incumbent Odin Langen in the 7th).

· In 1982, when DFLer Rudy Perpich won the open gubernatorial race, the DFL also picked up 2 newly drawn U.S. House districts (defeating 4-term incumbent Tom Hagedorn in the 1st and 2-term incumbent Arlen Erdahl in the 6th; Hagedorn had previous represented the 2nd CD and Erdahl the 1st CD).

· In 2002, with Republican Tim Pawlenty's open race gubernatorial victory, the GOP also picked up one U.S. House seat (with Mark Kennedy winning the newly-drawn 6th CD).

In only one instance since the DFL merger has a political party both taken back control of the Governor's mansion and lost a U.S. House seat. In 1990 Republican Arne Carlson defeated Governor Rudy Perpich but 7-term GOP incumbent Arlen Stangeland was defeated by Collin Peterson in the 7th CD.

There have also been two instances in which there was a change in gubernatorial party control but no change in the partisan composition of the state's U.S. House delegation: 1978 and 1998.

However, even with a strong gubernatorial candidate in 2010, the road to six seats for the DFL will be very difficut given the current district map. The GOP held on to all 3 of its districts in 2008 despite receiving the lowest percentage of votes cast in U.S. House races statewide in Minnesota since 1934.

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3 Comments


  • Here's my analysis, focusing on MN-06 only:

    http://www.immelman.us/news/can-a-democrat-beat-bachmann/

  • The Smart Politics analysis offers a compelling look at historical trends and correlates.

    My own analysis at http://www.immelman.us/news/can-a-democrat-beat-bachmann/ focuses more on contemporary macro-political dynamics.

    To reduce my analysis to a couple of bullet points, I think there are two key elements in prognosticating the outcome of the 2010 6th District election outcome:

    1. Since the inception of the reconfigured MN-06 in 2002, only one Democratic candidate ever in congressional, senatorial, gubernatorial, or presidential races has outpolled the Republican candidate in the 6th District.

    That candidate was Amy Klobuchar, who outperformed Mark Kennedy 50.5 to 45.7 percent in the 2006 U.S. Senate race.

    2. The fate of the 2010 DFL candidate will be closely tied to the national fortunes of the Democratic Party. Sen. Klobuchar was elected in a strong election year for Democrats, who in 2006 swept the GOP out of power in Congress.

    However, Bachmann was elected against the 2006 Democratic tide and reelected in 2008, surviving the Democratic tsunami that saw traditionally red states like Indiana, Virginia, and North Carolina turn blue in the presidential election.

    The conventional wisdom is that 2010 will not be a good year for Democrats. After taking about 50 seats (54?) from the Republicans in the last two election cycles, "regression to the mean" practically dictates that some of the recent Democratic gains will revert back to the Republican column.

    More at the link below:

    http://www.immelman.us/news/democratic-reality-check-in-2010/

  • Would a better title be : Can the DFL LOSE a 6th U.S. House Seat in 2010?

    If the premise of the article is that the Governor’s race could have some impact on Congressional races, then isn’t it more likely that the First District would switch to Republican than the Sixth or Third switch to Democrat ?

    The Sixth is a Republican district. In the last Governor’s race, Pawlenty won handily in all six counties with 54% of the vote with the Hutchinson/Reed team getting just over 5% and the DFL struggling for 40 %. The 2008 Presidential race shows the strength of the GOP in which McCain got 53.6% of the vote while Obama got 44.4%. This district is a virtual lock for the Republicans -- even Congresswoman Bachmann wins here.

    Now, look at the First District which had been strong Republican territory since Democrat Tim Penny decided not to seek re-election in 1994. But in 2006, DFLer Tim Walz defeated five-term incumbent Gil Gutknecht by 15,070 votes … and the key was Olmsted County … the district largest county features Rochester which was Gutknecht’s home base. Walz won the county by 1,748 votes while Pawlenty won by 9,041. The explanation for so many crossover from the gubernatorial contest to vote for a Democrat for Congress rests clearly on the DM&E railroad issue – a local issue in Rochester that had nothing to do with state government. In 2008, Walz and Obama prevailed … but the Walz margin of re-election was impacted by his Republican challenger -- a neophyte to politics who ran on issues that paralleled Bachmann’s views.
    Considering that Pawlenty won the governorship by 21,108 votes, Olmsted County was probably more important than those in the Sixth. If Walz had any coattails, then the governor’s race could have been closer.
    If the MN-GOP offer a more mainstream Congressional candidate in 2010, they would be more competitive.

    The Third was represented by moderate Republican Jim Ramstad for years, so it was not surprising that Obama won there while Eric Paulson won the Congressional seat over a political neophyte. In some ways, this seat may have been determined by the effect of negative campaign ads where the Democrat challenger was attacked while Ramstad defended the attacks on Paulson.
    If the DFL had offered a candidate with legislative experience, the outcome may have been different.
    Could this change in 2010 ? Maybe, but doubtful.

    In 2010, the focus will primarily be on Governor, Secretary of State and State Legislature contests as there is not a US Senate contest. The issues will be presented as an overreach of government concerning taxes (healthcare, climate change) and intrusion into personal liberties …. Those issues will not help the DFL candidates.

    The campaign will be decided by the “motivated” versus the “apathetic”. The MN-GOP will be motivated after the “Coleman’s stolen seat” with mega-attention given to the Secretary of State contest. Further, there will be need to maintain “GovernorVeto” in place to counter the DFL-controlled legislature.
    Where will the Governor’s race be decided ? Look to the Second, Third and Sixth Districts … all Republican congressional seats. MN-GOP motivation will help the Republican candidates in those Districts but could also help in the only district that the GOP has held since the 1990 that it doesn’t hold today … the First.

    Therefore, it is more likely that the Democrats could lose a congressional seat than gain one.

  • Leave a comment


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