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Walz v. Demmer: How much of a race is it?

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 Based on unpublished polls that he has seen, he thinks Walz probably leads by high single digits or maybe even low double digits.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.


Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/08/2010 - 03:29 pm.

    As a forty year resident of the 1st District, I can remember when Tim Penny represented what then covered a similar area with moderate positions very similar to Tim Walz’s.
    It’s not the 6th ;-).

    Remember that Tim didn’t simply squeak by an incumbent; he unseated Gutknecht quite convincingly.
    Given the current mood; I’d say that Tim will win with about 55% of the vote rather than the 60% he’d normally get. Despite the GOP attempt to paint him as an extreme leftist, he’s really to the right of most of the DFL — he represents his district well.

  2. Submitted by Paul Scott on 10/08/2010 - 09:19 pm.

    Tell me again why we are talking to a bunch of pols in the beltway about what is going to happen in the first? Demmer is a suit. There, I said it. Walz has let me down, but he is for real. Listen to the two on the stump and write about what you hear them say, is what I say.

    This is called MINNpost, after all.

    Your actual resident of the first, Paul Scott

  3. Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/08/2010 - 09:49 pm.

    Nate Silver of has it Walz 55%; Demmer 42%, with Walz having a 96% probability of winning. Walz is a winner who should keep the seat.

  4. Submitted by Robert Langford on 10/09/2010 - 06:51 am.

    I think one thing that is happening is after Citizens, corporations of all stripes are using their hoarded cash to fund the Republicans. The Republicans have so much corporate cash that they are expanding the support that they give to marginal candidates, and Demmer is one of the recipients. I have followed Walz, know lots of folks from the District, and believe he is a pretty safe winner. If the Republicans did not have money splilling from the corporate coffers, nothing would be coming in for Demmer.

  5. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 10/10/2010 - 11:48 am.

    Walzing with Pelosi is a losing proposition this November, when all politics is NOT local. There is a tsunami coming against the most hated and despised pair of politicians since Hoover and Coolidge, namely Typhoid Barry, and his sidekick, Nancy Pelosi. The Republicans may be getting Demmer and Emmer, but most people do not care, because they are desparate to send a message to Washington against 1) Green Scam windmill and solar panel Stimulus Packages, 2) Obamacare – not ONE Democrat is spending a dollar anywhere to defend it, and 3) the global warming hoax called Cap and Tax, which is deadly for agricultural districts. Walz voted for all three, and will regret it on November 2, 2010.

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/10/2010 - 03:40 pm.

    Kinda says something when you people can’t say two words without name calling.

  7. Submitted by Max Hailperin on 10/11/2010 - 07:19 am.

    I was glad to see Mr. Westgard in comment #3 pointing to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight for a statistical view of where the race stands. (But note that the web site in Westgard’s comment is wrong: is cybersquatting spam; you need to spell out to get redirected to Silver’s blog, which is hosted by the New York Times.)

    You’ll notice that Silver’s estimate of the vote spread (13 points) is reasonably consistent with the view Eric Black’s original column attributes the Cook Report’s Wasserman: “he thinks Walz probably leads by high single digits or maybe even low double digits.” So the big difference is in how the statistician and the Cook analyst view the consequences of this estimated vote spread for the tightness of the race. The statistician thinks it makes for a 96% chance of re-electing Walz, whereas the Cook analyst sees a more realistic prospect of an upset. Nate Silver himself has posted a good explanation of why, based on historical data, he is willing to make such a confident prediction of the victor in a race with this size spread:

    This brings us back to the question that Wasserman and Black implicitly raise, but don’t really delve into: why, then, would the NRCC waste money on this race, which for them is a long shot? There’s an answer in a column by Aaron Blake that the Washington Post ran recently; Walz was among the members of congress that Blake listed as examples under the headline “Republicans aim to take out future Democratic stars.” See

  8. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/11/2010 - 09:48 am.

    When you’ve got a lot of money to throw around, you take gambles.

  9. Submitted by Max Hailperin on 10/11/2010 - 12:17 pm.

    Regarding Mr. Brandon’s comment #8, “When you’ve got a lot of money to throw around, you take gambles,” I’d say two things.

    First, the factual premise that the NRCC has a lot of money is in doubt. Certainly some politically aligned groups do. But according to Politico, the NRCC itself isn’t in that position: they needed to take out a bank loan in order to finance their recent ad buys, including the one attacking Walz. See

    Second, there are gambles and there are gambles. The NRCC has definitely not thrown money at every race where they had a 4% or better chance of winning. They selected most of their races essentially as interchangeable parts, based on the idea that the more democrat-held seats they can take on the way to 218 or more, the better. Those races all had better odds than 4%. But then there are a few other districts, like ours, where the NRCC isn’t looking just at the arithmetic of taking one more democrat out. Instead, they view our representative as someone special. (I agree.) Taking out Tim Walz is worth more to them than just any old democrat-held seat. As such, they are willing to gamble longer odds on it.

  10. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/11/2010 - 12:49 pm.

    So far, most of the ads I’ve seen in Mankato are third party, not NRCC.

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