With the Republicans on stage this week in Minneapolis/St. Paul, I thought we'd take a trip to the Twin Cities and visit a congressional district that is home to one of the most competitive House races this year. It will also, it seems, be extremely close at the top of the ticket as well.
Long a Republican stronghold, the 3rd congressional district seems to be another example of a suburban region in political transition. Encompassing the western suburbs of Minneapolis, the 3rd has been represented by Congressman Jim Ramstad since 1990. The last Democrat to hold the seat left office in 1960. Ramstad is a consummate moderate, espousing a pro-choice position on abortion (with some exceptions), a relatively pro-environmental record, and support for stem cell research. In all of his campaigns, he's never received less than 64% of the vote. Last year Ramstad announced his retirement setting off a fevered race to capture the seat.
On the presidential level, the district has been extremely competitive of late. President Bush carried the district narrowly in both 2000 and 2004 with 50% and 51% respectively, despite losing statewide.
In this year's House race, the Republicans have nominated state representative Erik Paulsen while the DFL has put forward Iraq war vet Ashwin Madia. The recruitment of Madia is reminiscent of the DCCC's efforts in the last election cycle to support relatively moderate Democrats with military or national security experience (see Tammy Duckworth, Patrick Murphy, Joe Sestak). Both candidates have proven to be formidable fundraisers, with each having over $1 million raised.
Survey USA recently released poll results for the district, showing Obama and Paulsen with slight leads (see results here). The closeness of these races and the fact that the district seems willing (at least in this poll) to show support for candidates of each party illustrates just how much this region is up for grabs. As the next weeks play out, be sure to focus on this swing region in a swing state.