Two Minnesota U.S. House races seen as tossups in 2018 by Inside Elections

MinnPost file photo by James Nord

The next federal elections are still a bit more than a year away. It’s important to keep your shirt on and to remember one of the lessons of the last election, which is that no one can see the political future clearly this far in advance (or even at noon on Election Day).

With that humility established, I note that one of the veteran handicappers puts Minnesota on the frontlines of the battle for control of the U.S. House. The handicapper is Nathan Gonzales, editor/publisher of “Inside Elections,” which is one of those outfits for political junkies that follows, analyzes and rates every race in the country.

In the overall race for the U.S. House, Gonzales lists only six out of 435 House races as toss-ups — and two of them are in Minnesota. (No other state has two.)

 The two are the race to replace First District Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, who is vacating to run for governor, and the first re-election campaign of Republican Rep. Jason Lewis in Minnesota’s southeastern Second District.

Walz, a moderate Democrat and former high school teacher and coach, had won six House terms in the purplish First District, most by comfortable margins. But Walz barely survived 2016 beating Republican challenger Jim Hagedorn by less than 1 percent of the vote, as the district gave its presidential vote to Donald Trump by a whopping 53-38 percent. Those are among the reasons Gonzales calls the seat “a difficult open seat [for Democrats] to defend.”

In the Second District, Gonzales expects a rematch of 2016 when Lewis beat former medical device executive Angie Craig by less than two percentage points (47-45.2) with an independent candidate (Paula Overby) taking 7.8. At this point, Gonzales sees that rematch as among the (only) six toss-up races out of 435.

I wrote this post only to pass along the oddity that Minnesota has two of the six toss-ups, according to Gonzales. But to complete “Inside Elections” Minnesota overview:

Gonzales believes the suburban Third District, where Republican Erik Paulsen is in his fifth term, still “leans Republican.” But “leans” is the weakest advantage “Inside Elections” assigns.

Likewise, since 7th District incumbent Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson plans to seek a 15th term, that district also “leans Democrat.”

In the northeastern Minnesota 8th district, where ( even though Trump carried the district by 15 percentage points) incumbent DFLer Rick Nolan won last year and plans to seek another term, Gonzales says the district still “leans” Nolan’s way.

So, as Gonzales sees it a year out, five of Minnesota’s eight U.S. House races are likely to be pretty darn competitive.

The other Minnesota districts aren’t rated at all, which I take to mean that Reps. Betty McCollum in the St. Paul-based 4th District and Keith Ellison in the Minneapolis-based 5th are considered safe seats for the Dems. And Republican Tom Emmer in the central Minnesota Sixth is likewise rated as safe.

(Inside Elections, by the way, is the former Rothenberg Political Report. Stu Rothenberg has reduced his involvement to that of a “contributor” to the site.)

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/05/2017 - 12:59 pm.

    First District

    Had Tim Walz chosen to defend his seat, I suspect that he would be successful. He knows his district and is good at tailoring his message to fit it (you might call him the anti-Sanders).
    Now, it depends very much on who is nominated by the 1st District DFL. As far as I know, there is not yet a leading candidate. A lot of it depends upon the extent to which Trump’s coat tails turn into an albatross.

  2. Submitted by Pat Terry on 10/05/2017 - 01:59 pm.


    Is Angie Craig a good candidate for that district? I know Lewis is vulnerable, but is she the one to beat him?

  3. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/05/2017 - 04:56 pm.

    The issue hurting the GOP is the in the Senate’s failure to repeal Obamacare. There is simply no excuse.

    On the issues important to less partisan voters, this year has been full of wins. Wages are up, unemployment is down, consumer confidence is up.

    Next year’s election is going to hinge on the GOP’s ability to get a good tax reform package signed into law.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 10/06/2017 - 01:49 pm.


      The excuse is that Obamacare has been a success, and replacing it with something worse will be a disaster. The GOP never really wanted to replace it – they just wanted to give a rallying cry to people who don’t really understand health care in the first place.

      Because the economy does much better under Democratic presidents than Republicans, and this particular Republican president doesn’t even understand basic economics, I think we are nearing the end of coasting on Obama’s success. The worst monthly jobs report in years portends of bad times ahead. Given that Trump has failed in nearly every venture he’s ever tried, it shouldn’t be a shock.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/07/2017 - 01:13 pm.

      Note that

      employment and unemployment are not reciprocal measures.
      Both can got down simultaneously if people drop out of the work force, or if the size of the work force decreases due to demographics.
      On wages, see

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/06/2017 - 09:27 am.


    Has anyone analyzed “Inside Elections” credibility? Do they have a record of success predicting election outcomes? Did they predicts Trump’s election? Given the fact that anyone predicting outcomes in most races starts with a 50-50 chance, and incumbent’s have an advantage, what’s their track record?

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/06/2017 - 09:32 am.


    The GOP couldn’t pass an ACA repeal because they couldn’t come up with an alternative that wouldn’t deprive millions of people of health care.
    Real median wages are down (I’m using median because that measure is not skewed by a few obscene hedge funders), the economy just lost 33,000 jobs, and consumer confidence doesn’t have a dollar value.
    So far the GOP hasn’t come up with a tax plan that wouldn’t be a windfall for the rich while increasing the deficit.
    Aside from that, the GOP is in good shape 😉

    • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/06/2017 - 12:30 pm.

      1. Obamacare doesnt provide health care, it provides insurance… expensive, cruddy insurance that millions can’t afford to use.

      2.Not sure what bogus data you’re citing, because you didnt cite any, but pay is rising steadily.

      3. Economists use consumer confidence as a measure of economic health…ours is excellent.

      4. Any tax cut that is fair will be based on how much a person pays in today. The wealthy pay the most, so their cut will be the largest. Anything else is redistribution, which is deplorable to freedom loving people.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/06/2017 - 02:01 pm.

        Reality is

        that the proposed GOP tax cuts cut the -percentage- paid by the top 0.1%, not the absolute amount. There’s a difference.
        And the link that you referred to is mostly forecasts, not measures, and refers to salary budgets, not individual real dollar wages. Aside from that ….
        And if you look at FRED data
        real compensation per hour is flat for the past few years.

  6. Submitted by Josh Lease on 10/06/2017 - 12:44 pm.


    Some of this is a bit absurd: Thinking that Collin is vulnerable is a bit on the dumb side. He works his district and is well-known and personally liked. To expect to beat him just because the PVI in his district strongly tilts GOP is the sort of prediction someone makes from DC without knowing what’s going on in the area.

    Erik Paulsen is hard to see as vulnerable as well. While I think he’s an epic fraud and far more right-wing than the district, he has successfully convinced most of the district and the entire media establishment that he’s far more moderate than his voting record reflects. He also has scads of campaign money and isn’t afraid to spend it, or to wrap his arms around Amy Klobuchar. Maybe it happens in a national wave, but over a year out it’s hard to see it.

    Lewis is vulnerable. It’s his first re-elect, he can’t run against Hillary again…but he also has no shame and won’t be afraid to invoke bigotry, fear, and hate in service of his electoral fortunes.

    The CD1 seat rates “toss-up” because no one knows anything yet. No one knows any of the candidates, really, it’s too soon, and no one cares yet except the devoted.

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