WASHINGTON — Chip Cravaack did the impossible.
By a narrow margin not confirmed until nearly 4 a.m. Cravaack, a Navy veteran and political novice, knocked off Rep. Jim Oberstar, the veteran Iron Range Democrat and long-time chairman of the House Transportation Committee, from what had been considered one of the safest Democratic seats in Minneosta.
It was the crest of a massive Republican wave, to be sure, but there had been waves before that came and went with little incident in the Northland. For 18 terms, no one had even come close to Oberstar. But this wave was different.
The result came as a shock across the political spectrum. Yes, Cravaack’s internal poll in early October showed him within striking distance. Yes, the only independent pollster (SurveyUSA) showed Cravaack within the margin of error just days out from the election. And early returns showed the race neck and neck.
There always seemed to be an explanation. Cravaack’s poll was an internal. SurveyUSA was a robopoll. Election results showed a tight race throughout the night, but the Dem stronghold of St. Louis County had yet to report. But when it did, it wasn’t enough.
And now the dean of the Minnesota congressional delegation will be the only one not returning to Congress.