NRCC Chair Greg Walden: Six Minnesota House seats could be competitive in ’14

WASHINGTON — MPR’s Brett Neely gets the following from U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee: 

Six of Minnesota’s eight U.S. house seats are among the dwindling number of potentially competitive seats in the 2014 midterm elections, according to Oregon U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, who heads the House Republicans’ campaign organization.

“This is a much smaller battlefield than we’ve seen in the past,” said Walden at a briefing for reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

This isn’t to say that 75 percent of Minnesota’s House seats will face competitive races next year. Walden’s assessment is more a reflection that Minnesota has become a rare state where four districts (the 1st, the 2nd, the 3rd and the 8th) have a fairly even split between Democratic and Republican voters.

Indeed, if one goes off numbers alone — as Walden appears to be doing — you could easily say half of Minnesota’s eight congressional districts should be competitive (if you go by the Cook Partisan Voter Index, for example). Walden adds to that list the 7th, which should be a solid Republican district if it were not represented by Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson, and the 6th, Michele Bachmann’s.

Of course, candidates often matter more than numbers — very few expect Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen to face much competition next year, even though his 3rd District narrowly went for President Obama in 2012. And Republicans have shifted their attention away from Tim Walz recently, barring the emergence of a top-notch candidate to run against him. So while the numbers say a lot of Minnesota’s seats could be competitive, in reality it doesn’t seem likely.

National Democrats want to challenge Bachmann and John Kline; Republicans have focused heavily on Peterson, at least so far. This all could change between now and Election Day, of course, but don’t expect six barn-burner U.S. House races next November.

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

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