WASHINGTON — On the heels of an internal poll showing him within three percentage points of long-time Rep. Jim Oberstar, national Republicans have elevated Chip Cravaack to the first tier of their Young Guns program, which aims to assist GOP challengers in unseating Democratic incumbents.
“The NRCC is committed to working with Chip Cravaack as he continues to meet the rigorous goals of the Young Guns program,” said NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions in a statement. “Chip is an accomplished, independent leader who will fight to create jobs and rein in government spending. I am confident that Chip has what it takes to take on Jim Oberstar, an out-of-touch Washington politician solely focused on his party’s failed big-government, big-spending agenda.”
If the 8th is actually in play, it would defy the predictions of every major national election handicapper — they’ve all got the 8th District as safe for Oberstar. Nate Silver, founder of FiveThirtyEight.com, gives Oberstar a 99.9 percent chance of holding the seat.
According to an Associated Press report, Cravaack has raised $230,000 and has $120,000 cash on hand. Oberstar, meanwhile, has raised $1.5 million and has $571,000 left in the bank.
Cravaack has seen increased attention since releasing that internal poll — the AP said he’s in a “real race” while the prominent GOP blogger (and Minnesotan) Ed Morrissey declared the seat “in play.”
Oberstar supporters, however, contest the poll as “questionable at best” and say it was prefaced with leading statements designed to push respondents toward Cravaack. There is little way of analyzing the survey in depth, as the full crosstabs have yet to be released.
“Jim never takes reelection for granted, but you have to get out there every even year and state your case to the people about why you deserve to get reelected,” said Oberstar campaign spokesman John Schadl. “Jim has been sent back 18 times, so he’s confident he’ll be able to get sent back again.”
Cravaack is the third Minnesota Republican to make the NRCC’s list. Lee Byberg (challenging Collin Peterson in the 7th) is also on the first tier of the list, while Randy Demmer (challenging Tim Walz in the 1st) sits on the top tier as the GOP’s best hope for an upset winner. While the NRCC will begin airing ads in the 1st on Friday (and helped fund Demmer’s own ads beginning today), the committee had to take out loans to do that, so additional financial support to candidates like Byberg and Cravaack is doubtful at best.