Minnesota Is the Center of the Midterm Universe

It’s not often that my home state of Minnesota—out here in fly-over country—gets this kind of media attention during elections.

Minnesota is home in 2018 to an open gubernatorial contest, two US Senate races and four highly competitive House matchups, making the North Star State the center of the midterm universe.

Right now, Democrat Tim Walz is leading the governor’s race while Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith are poised for re-election. That leaves the four competitive House matchups as the ones everyone is watching.

In case you think that is a bit of hyperbole, take a look at how the prognosticators at Real Clear Politics have handicapped the House races. There are 40 seats in the toss-up category and in 38 of them, the incumbent is a Republican. That leaves only two where an incumbent Democrat is facing a serious challenge—and both of them are in Minnesota. I have previously written about the races in the 1st and 8th congressional districts, but things are starting to break in the other two, which are currently held by Republicans and present opportunities for Democrats.

The move that grabbed most people’s attention recently is the ad that Democrat Dean Phillips is running against the incumbent, Erik Paulsen in Minnesota’s 2nd congressional district.

As CNN noted in the link up above, Phillips is running a pretty unconventional campaign, “traversing the district in a revamped 1960s milk truck dubbed the “Government Repair Truck.” In a district Clinton won by nine points in 2016, it’s probably not surprising that Paulsen is attempting to distance himself from Trump.

Both Cook and Sabato recently moved this race from “toss-up” to “leans Democratic,” while FiveThirtyEight projects that the chance of Phillips unseating Paulsen stands at about 84 percent. Similarly, Cook and FiveThirtyEight have Democrat Angie Craig as the favorite in Minnesota’s 2nd congressional district to beat incumbent Jason Lewis, who recently got some national attention for his sexist and racist remarks as a radio shock jock.

While some of Lewis’ controversial remarks as a talk radio host received attention in 2016, new comments have come to light that have resulted in fresh scrutiny. Among them: Lewis lamenting not being able to call women “sluts” anymore and claiming black and Hispanic communities are “addicted” to government welfare.

Two years ago, Craig lost to Lewis by only 6,000 votes in a three-way race where an independent candidate garnered over 28,000 votes. This time around, they are head-to-head, and a poll this month by PPP showed Craig ahead by three points.

With two Democratic seats up for grabs in toss-up races and two Republican incumbents in jeopardy, perhaps it makes sense why CNN reports that Minnesota is the “center of the midterm universe.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.