MinnPost’s Washington guy Derek Wallbank wrote yesterday about the Tim Walz-Randy Demmer race in Minnesota’s Southern 1st District, and the fact that national Republicans had decided to include the race in its late advertising. The NRCC ad attacking Walz as part of the Dem spending spree (replete with pictures of Walz next to mugs of Pres. Obama and Nancy Pelosi, is viewable via Derek’s piece.
At the beginning of September, most of the publications that rate the competitiveness of congressional races viewed Walz’ reelection as a safe bet. State Rep. Demmer of Hayfield, while taken seriously as a political talent, was deemed a longshot, mostly because Walz, a likeable, hard-working former high school teacher and coach and national guardsman seeking a third term, didn’t appear vulnerable.
During September, mindful of the potential Republican wave that has been forming all year and the fairly permanent fact that the Minnesota 1st is a swing district, several of the rating publications put the race on their list of seats that could be in play. None of them rated it a toss-up nor even a leaner, but in the category that goes by names like Democrat “Favored” or “Likely.”
Congressional Quarterly and the Rothenberg Political Report still have it in those categories but today, the Cook Political Report moved the race from “Likely” Dem to “Leans” Dem. In Cook’s system, that’s the last step before “Toss-up.”
I spoke to David Wasserman who rates House races for the Cook report. Based on unpublished polls that he has seen, he thinks Walz probably leads by high single digits or maybe even low double digits. The big thing that got him to nudge the race into the leaner category is NRCC’s decision to invest in Demmer’s campaign.
Demmer has been to Washington recently and was interviewed by many of the organizations that rate the races. He must’ve made a decent or at least credible impression. Guys like Wasserman get spun all the time. But he takes it seriously when, in the late stages of a campaign, a big party committee that is trying to decide where to put resources for the late push, commits to a race that had not previously been on the radar screen.
“I still think Walz is in much better shape than most other freshman and sophomore Dems in the House,” Wasserman said. “But the Republicans see something there they like, because they’re investing in the race.”
Walz is up with his third ad of the campaign, which accuses Demmer of wanting to privatize Social Security.
Before Walz won in 2006, the First District was represented by Repub Gil Gutknecht for 12 years. It was carried by George W. Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008. The CPVI, which rates the partisan lean of districts, rates the MN First as having a slight Republican lean.
In his writeup of the race (subscriber only), Wasserman noted that both of Walz’ successful races occurred in strong years for Dems, so this is his first time to try to hold the seat in a Repub year.
There is an Independence Party nominee in the race, Steven Wilson of Rochester.