Several months ago, I had a brilliant idea that has turned out to be a boring idea. Although it might get a little less boring soon.
I’m not the biggest believer in what we call “horse-race journalism,” which is coverage of politics devoted mostly to the who’s-gonna-win question. As an old man, I’ve come to accept that the future will announce itself when it becomes the present, and generally not before.
But we political junkies can’t help ourselves, so we waste a lot of valuable time and energy guessing the unknowable future. For election year 2018, the Black Ink leadership team (that’s me) decided to farm out the whole exercise to three of the many online politics sites that put out a rating of almost every single race, and then report back when they update their ratings.
Although it’s been a very interesting year to be following politics, it’s been a very boring year, so far, for my little exercise because the ratings have scarcely changed. So I haven’t updated my exercise for a long time.
That may change a week from today, when the results of the Minnesota primaries will be known, so I’ll just review how my three raters see our races for governor, our two (!) Senate races and our eight races for the U.S. House heading into primary week.
The overview is pretty sensational, although it’s been roughly the same all year. Although Minnesota has only eight seats in the U.S. House, we have the most, or tied for the most toss-up races of any state.
That’s impressive. We have eight House seats, but four toss-ups, according to both the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball. That ties us with California, which has 53 seats but also just four toss-ups (Sabato and Cook). The third rating site that I’m following (“Inside Elections,” formerly known as the Rothenberg Political Report) scores us with three toss-ups and one “leaner.”
To specify: Minnesota’s three consensus toss-ups are: The race in the Southern Minnesota First Congressional District, to replace the departing DFLer Tim Walz (who’s running for governor); the race in the northeastern Eighth District to replace the departing Rick Nolan (who’s running for lieutenant governor) and the race in the south suburban/exurban/Rochester Second District where incumbent Republican Jason Lewis faces former health care executive Angie Craig.
The fourth toss-up, according Cook and Sabato, is the race in Minnesota’s western suburban Third District where DFLer and first-time candidate Dean Phillips is challenging five-term Republican incumbent Erik Paulsen. Independent Elections rates that one “Leans Republican.”
Just to mention the four less competitive races: All of the sites agree that the incumbents in Minnesota’s Fourth District (DFLer Betty McCollum) and Sixth District (Republican Tom Emmer) are safe bets to win another term. In the Minneapolis-based Fifth District, incumbent Keith Ellison is leaving to run for Minnesota attorney general, and there is a big primary field seeking the DFL nomination to succeed him. But the raters all agree that whoever wins the DFL primary will become the new congressman, so they all rate it as “safe” for the Democratic nominee, whoever that turns out to be.
Adding to Minnesota’s status as “Land of 10,000 Toss-ups,” and acknowledging that the major party nominees for governor will not be known until next week, Sabato and Cook both rate our race for the open governor’s seat as a “toss-up.” Presumably they’ll reassess that after the primary. Independent Elections, without knowing the nominees, rates the Minnesota governor’s race as “likely Democratic.”
Because of the Al Franken resignation, we have the somewhat unusual status of having both of our U.S. Senate seats on the ballot in the same year.
The three raters all agree U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is “safe” for re-election against her likely Republican opponent, state Rep. Jim Newberger.
Tina Smith, who was appointed to serve in Franken’s place until the next election, is seeking to serve out the unexpired portion of Franken’s term. She has a primary challenger, Richard Painter, and a likely Republican opponent (state Sen. Karin Housley). All three of the raters I am following rate the ultimate outcome of that race as “likely Democratic.” Perhaps they are aware of the historical fact that in those occasional instances when a state has both its Senate seats up at the same time, one party tends to win both.
Sometime after the dust clears from next week’s primary, I’ll update the race ratings.