Another analysis puts the Minnesota CD3 race in ‘toss-up’ category

MinnPost file photo by Craig Lassig
Rep. Erik Paulsen re-election race has been downgraded from “leans Republican” to “toss-up” by the Sabato Crystal Ball.

The chances of re-election for U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota’s west suburban Third Congressional District have been downgraded from “leans Republican” to “toss-up” by the Sabato Crystal Ball.

This is not a huge deal. The Cook Political Report already rated the race as a toss-up. Independent Elections still rates it as “leans Republican,” which means leans Paulsen. But, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am tracking three of the well-known political tip sheets this election year to see how they rate Minnesota’s race and to update you on changes in the ratings.

Since I first wrote about this small project on Feb. 12, the slight downgrade in Paulsen’s chances of re-election is the first change of any of my three raters on any of the Minnesota races. The change reinforces that, among all the pundits, Minnesota is overrepresented in its stock of close races that could help determine control of the U.S. House next year.

Also note that the announcement of the Minnesota ratings change is part of a larger announcement of ratings changes by Sabato in 26 U.S. House races — and that all 26 changes are in favor of the Democrat in the race.

You should assume that the Paulsen downgrade is not about local circumstances or any news specific to Paulsen or his likely challenger, Dean Phillips. (Two other DFLers are also running.) Rather, the change is based on the latest thinking of how big a wind Democrats in general may have at their backs in November.

Here’s what Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, wrote about the MN-3 race:  

“Paulsen represents a more affluent district in the Twin Cities suburbs where Trump underperformed in 2018. Paulsen is likely to face Dean Phillips (D), a member of a powerful Minnesota business family. The moves here are not related to a specific new development, but rather represent a fresh assessment of these races that takes into account what we believe is a challenging environment for Republicans in districts that both moved toward and away from Trump in 2016 relative to their previous presidential voting.”

Here’s the full Kondik/Sabato piece.

At least one (and in some cases all) of the three raters have a “toss-up” rating on four of the Minnesota’s eight U.S. House races, one of our two U.S. Senate races, and our gubernatorial race.

Only three of our eight U.S. House members (CD 4 U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, CD 5 Rep. Keith Ellison and CD 6 Rep. Tom Emmer) are rated as “safe” by all of the raters. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is also rated safe.

I’ll continue to follow ratings changes in all the Minnesota races and get back to you when there are changes.

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/09/2018 - 01:14 pm.

    Toss up or toss out?

    I’ll be voting for the latter.

    The poster child for putting himself ahead of all else.

    And not exactly a man of courage: I got dropped into one of his phone in town halls and he did just fine: defending his positions even though their was not a lot of naysayers on the call. After the call was finished I was left wondering why he would not simply take his medicine with the ax and pitch fork crowd for 2 hours twice a year: He is fully capable of a rational defense of his beliefs, yet avoids the discomfort of a public town hall. The only reason I can identify as to why is his sense of entitlement: I’m a US congressman, I do not have to listen to you and your ideas that I disagree with even if it is only 4 hours a year.

    His (in)effectiveness was never more on display than during the tax bill: For the past 8 years his single biggest issue has been the repeal of the medical device tax. So when the biggest package of tax cuts in the last 50 years gets passed Paulsen’s Pet Project fails to make the cut.

    Entitled and ineffective: Toss him out.

  2. Submitted by cory johnson on 03/09/2018 - 02:20 pm.

    All he has to do….

    Is run on the economy and he’ll win by 5 points.

  3. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 03/09/2018 - 03:42 pm.

    There are who will vote based on the economy.

    But whose economy. The US has many economies. Take agriculture. Maybe you don’t think a metro district is affected. Think again. Cargill and General Mills are just part of it. Tariffs will deeply hurt farmers and agribusiness. Which candidates knows about this? Dean Phillips. Think about it and you see it is true. A daily business in tge food and beverage industry.

    The Phillips family like the Dayton family has a big record of philanthropy and community service. Each family understands the public and provide things want to buy. So why “where is Eric” see no need for open public forums, Phillips is out every day meeting with open groups every day. Anyone can come and as far as I know, no security staff to eject people who aren’t docile.

    If your wish list is for a Washington insider and whose next job likely will be a lobbyist for the medical prices industry or another big money group, Paulsen is your man. Just another Pawlenty. Phillips is a horse of a different color, a fresh choice when cynical self interest has been revealed for the evil it is.

  4. Submitted by John Eidel on 03/09/2018 - 05:05 pm.

    The ad writes itself…

    If I were Dean Phillips, or whoever ends up winning the Democratic nomination, I would run an ad spoofing on The Beatles, “Help!” In this ad, Erik Paulsen is being chased by a mob of constituents. He employs ever more ridiculous disguises to avoid them, hiding in a doorway with a Groucho disguise, etc. The voiceover says something along the lines of, “Erik Paulsen voted to take away the healthcare of thousands of Minnesotans, but was too afraid to actually face these citizens in person. Erik can run away, but he can’t hide.”

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/10/2018 - 05:58 pm.

      One Flaw in That Argument

      Democrats rarely take an issue like that and run with it. They have high priced consultants that know better.

  5. Submitted by cory johnson on 03/10/2018 - 09:15 am.

    If the town hall subject….

    Is the best strategy Democrats have to get independents to vote against Paulsen it won’t be close. Most fair minded voters don’t care that he won’t subject himself to these “events”. They are stacked with liberal special interests who want to yell at a person they’d never vote for anyway.

    • Submitted by Debra Hoffman on 03/11/2018 - 02:10 pm.

      Town Halls and Congressional Votes

      I recall a time when Democratic elected officials were holding town halls which were stacked with Tea Party special interests who wanted to “yell at a person they’d never vote for anyway”. The following article contains several instances of these often violent town hall meetings, which Democrats held, despite the possibility of being attacked:

      You may be right that the town hall issue isn’t enough to sway an election. However, Paulsen could lose this election if enough voters come to the realization that, though Paulsen says he supports Social Security, Medicare, improving our environment, etc., his voting record shows he does not. It will be up to the CD3 Democrats to keep voters informed of Paulsen’s votes and I hope that they do.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/12/2018 - 11:32 am.

        town halls

        It’s not so much Paulsen’s avoidance of town hall meetings and meeting with constituents in other forums. Rather, it’s a matter of asking why he chooses invisibility. What’s he hiding? And the other part, is to take advantage of the opportunity this leaves his opponent. Because Paulsen can’t be visible in the district, can’t respond personally to the issue, he leaves the field wide open to his opponent.

  6. Submitted by jim hughes on 03/11/2018 - 07:48 pm.

    we never learned

    What, polls again? Didn’t we learn in 2016 that the value of polls is absolutely zero? The pundits and pollsters had Trump’s chances in single digits right before the election. How completely, epically, cosmically wrong can a class of ‘experts’ be before we stop listening? But we can’t stop – we’re hooked.

    So Palusen’s seat is a “tossup” – the most noncommital non-prediction possible. And wait – since our ability to predict elections is nonexistent, EVERY race is a tossup.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/12/2018 - 09:41 am.


      The polls that predicted Clinton would win a majority of votes? Those polls were wrong?

      • Submitted by jim hughes on 03/12/2018 - 05:02 pm.

        And of course, a few far-right pundits had Trump all the way.

        But in this country the Presidential election isn’t about the popular vote, but the Electoral College (which I think could be renamed the Electoral Kindergarten). A candidate has to win not just a majority of votes nationally, but in enough of the right states. So any polls predicting Clinton would win a hypothetical national popular-vote election were meaningless.

        I remember the Washington Post gave Trump an 8% chance, shortly before the day. One of their columnists (can’t remember who) ran the Electoral College numbers and said Trump had “essentially no path to victory”.

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/12/2018 - 09:57 am.


    That Paulsen is vulnerable is something I have been consistently wrong about over the years, but I still believe it. His is a strange political career, conducted as it has been in the swamps of of Washington and the editorial boardroom of the Star Tribune. Few candidates have been so completely out of sync with their constituents as Erik Paulsen. Few candidates have worked harder or more successfully to avoid any encounters with their constituents. He is the political version of Howard Hughes in the long fingernail years.

    But what he does, he does well. Absentee legislator though he may be, he is running hard in cyberspace. He continues to dazzle his most committed constituency, the editorial writers of the Star Tribune. And he has fulfilled his greatest goal and mission, to confuse the voters of the third district into thinking he is Jim Ramstad.

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