Top Republican says six MN U.S. House seats could be in play in 2014

WASHINGTON – Six of Minnesota’s eight U.S. house seats are among the dwindling number of potentially competitive seats in the 2014 midterm elections, according to Oregon U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, who heads the House Republicans’ campaign organization.

“This is a much smaller battlefield than we’ve seen in the past,” said Walden at a briefing for reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

This isn’t to say that 75 percent of Minnesota’s House seats will face competitive races next year. Walden’s assessment is more a reflection that Minnesota has become a rare state where four districts (the 1st, the 2nd, the 3rd and the 8th) have a fairly even split between Democratic and Republican voters.

7th District Democrat Collin Peterson is a top target of the National Republican Congressional Committee (as he has been in many past election cycles). Peterson’s district has voted for the past three Republican presidential nominees while returning the veteran DFL lawmaker to Washington which has earned Peterson a place in the NRCC’s “Red Zone” of Democrats in Republican-friendly territory.

Two other Democrats — 1st District Rep. Tim Walz and 8th District Rep. Rick Nolan — were on Republicans’ list of potentially vulnerable incumbents if the political winds shift or the GOP recruits the right candidate.

Walden also acknowledged that all three Minnesota House Republicans could be on defense in 2014. Democrats have specifically targeted 6th District Rep. Michele Bachmann and 2nd District Rep. John Kline. Both lawmakers are already facing a rematch against their 2012 competitors, Jim Graves and Mike Obermueller respectively.

Last week, Bachmann began running ads in the Twin Cities media market 18 months before the election, a highly unusual move in congressional races. It’s likely a sign that Bachmann is trying to stave off another close race against Graves though Walden was confident of her prospects.

“Michele clearly has a national following that’s very strong. She has a large cash on hand number and she is a very effective campaigner,” Walden said of Bachmann.

3rd District Rep. Erik Paulsen has not been targeted but his district, like Kline’s, narrowly voted for President Obama over GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney last year, a sign of a competitive district.

Republicans currently hold 233 seats while Democrats hold 201 (one seat is vacant). Due to redistricting and demographic trends, political prognosticators such as the Rothenberg Political Report see Republicans holding a structural advantage of 209 safe seats in the House (217 are needed for a majority).