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Election Profile: Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District

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Smart Politics is running a series of election profiles of Upper Midwestern congressional races leading up to the November 2nd elections. The series will culminate with Smart Politics' official projections. The seventeenth profile in the series is Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District.

Candidates:
Republican: Erik Paulsen (1-term incumbent)
DFL: Jim Meffert
Independence: Jon Oleson

District Geography:
Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District comprises the western suburbs of Hennepin County and a small part of southern Anoka County.

History:
Erik Paulsen, a former state legislator, won the 3rd CD race left open by a retiring Jim Ramstad in 2008, by 7.6 points over DFLer Ashwin Madia.

Ramstad, a moderate to liberal Republican, had entered Congress by winning the open seat left by 10-term Republican Bill Frenzel in 1990, beating DFL nominee Lou Demars by more than a 2:1 margin (34.0 points). Ramstad thoroughly dominated his DFL opponents over the ensuing eight elections, winning by an average margin of 38.4 points. The DFL closed to within 30 points just twice - in 2004 (29.3 points, Deborah Watts) and 2006 (29.9 points, Wendy Wilde).

In 2010, Paulsen will square off against DFLer Jim Meffert, over whom the Congressman has enjoyed more than a 5 to 1 advantage in fundraising and 6 to 1 advantage in cash on hand through mid-October .

Also on the ballot is Independence Party candidate Jon Oleson. David Dillon, the Independence Party nominee in 2008, won 10.6 percent of the vote in that race.

Outlook:
Even though the 3rd CD has no GOP (or Democratic) tilt, with an "even" Partisan Voting Index score, Minnesota (and national) Democrats instead chose to invest more heavily in defeating Michele Bachmann in the much more Republican 6th CD. As a result, Meffert's campaign did not get the same level of support as 6th CD DFL challenger Tarryl Clark, even though the 3rd CD is a much more competitive district for Democrats. Barack Obama carried the 3rd CD by 6 points in 2008 while George W. Bush won it by 3 points in 2004.

One final take-home point: Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District has not voted for a DFL candidate since 1958 - a string of 25 consecutive elections.

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Previous post: Election Profile: Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District
Next post: Election Profile: Minnesota's 4th Congressional District

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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