Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Five Questions in the Race for Ramstad's Seat

The race for Jim Ramstad’s 3rd Congressional District House Seat should get more interesting in the next four to six weeks. As Minnesota wraps up its role in Super Tuesday (February 5), focus will shift from Presidential politics to local politics. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the 3rd District will have a wide-open race for voters to participate in. While the Democrats have gotten out of the blocks with three serious candidates, the Republicans have yet for anyone to officially enter the race, although it is said that Erik Paulsen, State Representative from Eden Prairie, is committed to the race and raising funds.

As this gets more interesting, here are my five questions as it pertains to this race. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Is Jim Ramstad Officially Out? He has announced his retirement and reiterated it at least once. However, more than one pundit watching the 3rd District just gets the feeling that he is not at peace with his decision. Call it collective intuition, but until he emphatically denies any interest in returning or endorses another candidate, there is going to be a buzz that he may not yet be out. Republican leadership in Washington would just as soon have a more conservative vote coming from the district, but if it is between a moderate Republican vote and a Democratic vote, they would jump at the chance of having Jim back.

When Will We See Activity on the Republican side? The answer to this may very well hinge on the answer to the first question. To-date, we know that Erik Paulsen is raising funds and working the Republican network for support. We also know that, while he hasn’t yet formally announced, Paulsen is scheduled to be on TPT’s Almanac in two weeks as a Republican candidate. While Paulsen has a history of effectively serving his Eden Prairie Constituents, he is hardly the only effective Republican public servant in the area and we would be surprised if there isn’t at least some behind-the-scenes activity from other potential candidates attempting to gauge if they could make a run.

If Paulsen Is The Only Republican Candidate, How Much Of a Money Advantage Does That Give Him? While the three Democrat candidates, Terri Bonoff, Ashwin Madia, and Jim Hovland split an estimated $400,000 of available funds in the most recent quarter (Hovland’s numbers aren’t yet in so we’re estimating), the rumor is that Paulsen collected that much himself. While you could argue that it is encouraging for Democrats to raise as much as Republicans in this historically right-leaning district, the spending side of the equation gives Paulsen a huge advantage if he has a non-competitive caucus and primary season. Campaign rules allow people to give once for the primary and once for the general, whether or not the candidate actually had to spend any money to get the nomination.

This Could Become a Blue Seat In 2008, But Could It Ever Be A “Safe” Blue Seat? There is no doubt that with the national anti-Bush sentiment, unhappiness with the Iraq situation, and strength of Democrat Presidential candidates giving the party a wave to ride, this could be a year that we see the 3rd District go Democrat. But could it ever be a “safe” seat for the Democrats like it has been for the Republicans? History would tell us that the 3rd likes a moderate Republican, but Ramstad didn’t lose much face in the district when his votes swayed to the left. Regardless of the temporary political environment, the 3rd likes a Congressperson who thinks for themself but is a “limited Government” person at heart. For that reason, this seat would be difficult for a Democrat to hold long-term unless he or she was extremely moderate, and we’re talking at least a 40 on the National Review’s 1-100 point scale (100 being the most conservative).

Does It Really Matter? As we’ve written before, there is a very good chance that Minnesota loses a congressional seat in 2010. That means that the new Congressperson would serve one term before potentially having to run against a popular incumbent from a neighboring district.

1 comment:

  1. I will lose all respect for the Rammer if he renigs on his retirement. But then again, it's party before the people, it's not about serving the people, it's about being loyal to the party. For shame!