WASHINGTON — Very few people seriously believe that the Democrats have a shot to upset Rep. John Kline in Minnesota’s 2nd District.
Every D.C.-based election handicapper has it rated as not just a safe Republican seat, but as the safest GOP-held seat in the state. The DFL thought so highly of Shelley Madore’s chances that they endorsed the other guy in the primary.
But the DFL’s man didn’t win the primary — in fact, Dan Powers was the only party-endorsed candidate who lost a congressional primary on Tuesday, falling to former state Rep. Madore by almost 10 percentage points.
And Madore, who knows that the experts think she doesn’t have a chance, is confident of another upset in November.
“He’s beatable,” Madore said of her opponent Wednesday as she began the general election campaign in earnest. “It’s R+3 down here,” she reminds. That means the district is rated as just three degrees to the right side of dead even. John McCain carried the 2nd by just two percentage points in 2008, while George W. Bush grabbed just 54 percent of the vote in 2004.
Kline has steadily and predictably out-performed national Republican candidates since being elected with 53 percent of the vote in 2002. Over the last three elections, Kline has taken between 56 and 58 percent of the vote, with his 2008 total of 57.3 percent his highest. Three different Democratic opponents, over that same time, have stayed between 40 and 43 percent.
National Republicans see that history repeating itself yet again this November.
“With so many Minnesotans frustrated by the Obama-Pelosi agenda creating perpetually high unemployment, it’s going to be hard for anyone, especially Shelley Madore, to beat John Kline,” said Tom Erickson, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“Not only is Madore on the wrong side of the issues, but her campaign has virtually no money and is running in one of the more Republican-friendly seats in Minnesota.”
The money gap is indeed vast. Kline has raised $1.1 million so far this cycle, to Madore’s $42,000. Kline dominates in cash-on-hand as well, with $457,000 to $6,500, about a 70:1 advantage to the incumbent.
Madore, who blames the gulf in part on donors staying out until the primary wrapped up, figures she needs to raise “at least” $350,000 to be competitive. Half her time going forward will be spent fundraising, the other half talking with voters, she says.
“Voters have become very engaged in who they give their votes to,” Madore explained. “Now our real challenge is to engage the voters and beat John Kline.”
Her message is simple: Things haven’t gotten better with Kline in Congress. Projects don’t get done, she said, because Kline won’t request the earmarks needed to fund them. National problems like the economy and unemployment become localized as she begins sentences with the words: “Since John Kline has been in office…”
Soon, she’ll begin working with the DFL, which until Tuesday was backing someone else. The party that shunned her at first now pledges to do everything it can to elect her.
The interview is almost over and we’re exchanging pleasantries as one does, but Madore has one final message for me before we hang up.
“Save this number,” she says, “so you can call me and congratulate me on winning in November.”