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National Democrats, Republicans target Minnesota seats

WASHINGTON — Two quick Minnesota-related 2014 notes from the Democratic and Republican congressional campaign committees on Thursday:

First, from Politico:

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Thursday will launch Red Zone, a program aimed at unseating seven elusive House Democratic incumbents who occupy conservative districts.

The seven Democrats whom Red Zone will focus on are: John Barrow of Georgia, Jim Matheson of Utah, Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber, both of Arizona, North Carolina’s Mike McIntyre, West Virginia’s Nick Rahall and Minnesota’s Collin Peterson.

The goal for Republicans is to strengthen their 17-seat House majority.

Each targeted Democrat resides in a district won by Republicans in the past three presidential elections. Of the seven, Barrow, Matheson and McIntyre stand out as perennial Republican targets. In 2012, Matheson, McIntyre and Barber each won by less than 1 percentage point.

And, from the Washington Post

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has launched a new “Jumpstart” program, which will provide financial and other support to candidates in targeted GOP-held seats.

The first eight candidates are Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, challenging Rep. Gary Miller in California’s 31st district; Judge Ann Callis, challenging Rep. Rodney Davis in Illinois’s 13th district; Michael Eggman, challenging Rep. Jeff Denham in California’s 10th district; Gwen Graham (daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham) challenging Rep. Steve Southerland in Florida’s 2nd; Jim Graves challenging Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th; City Councilman Domenic Recchia challenging Rep. Michael Grimm in New York’s 11th; former Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff challenging Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado’s 6th, and Kevin Strouse taking on Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania’s 8th district.

The campaign committees are essentially playing two different games here: The NRCC’s Red Line looks like a marketing campaign to reinforce well-trodden arguments they’ve made against Democrats representing districts that went for Mitt Romney in 2012. The DCCC’s Jumpstart is a financial assistance program for up-start Democratic challengers facing difficult races in 2014. 

Of course, every race is different. The NRCC has long wanted to make Peterson’s 7th District competitive, but, absent a rockstar Republican opponent, most political observers expect Peterson to hold it if he runs again — he continually wins re-election by double-digit margins, even if his constituents vote for Republican presidential candidates (Peterson himself has literally laughed off NRCC campaigns against him in the past).

On the other hand, the DCCC is boosting Graves thanks to the scare he gave Bachmann in 2012, when she underperformed relative to Romney and won by only 1.2 percent. National Democrats have promised to support Graves' campaign this cycle, something most of them didn't do in 2012 because the 6th seemed tailor-made for an easy Bachmann re-election. It was anything but, and now the DCCC is committing, per the Post, "financial and other support" to Graves. He'll need the help: Bachmann is certain to have a significant fundraising edge for the duration of the race.

Look for more of this — slick new PR campaigns and promises of financial assistance — from both committees as the election draws closer.

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.

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