Two Minnesota U.S. House races seen as tossups in 2018 by Inside Elections

By Eric Black, MinnPost - The next federal elections are still a bit more than a year away. It’s important to keep your shirt on and to remember one of the lessons of the last election, which is that no one can see the political future clearly this far in advance (or even at noon on Election Day).

With that humility established, I note that one of the veteran handicappers puts Minnesota on the frontlines of the battle for control of the U.S. House. The handicapper is Nathan Gonzales, editor/publisher of “Inside Elections,” which is one of those outfits for political junkies that follows, analyzes and rates every race in the country.

In the overall race for the U.S. House, Gonzales lists only six out of 435 House races as toss-ups — and two of them are in Minnesota. (No other state has two.)

 The two are the race to replace First District Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, who is vacating to run for governor, and the first re-election campaign of Republican Rep. Jason Lewis in Minnesota’s southeastern Second District.

Walz, a moderate Democrat and former high school teacher and coach, had won six House terms in the purplish First District, most by comfortable margins. But Walz barely survived 2016 beating Republican challenger Jim Hagedorn by less than 1 percent of the vote, as the district gave its presidential vote to Donald Trump by a whopping 53-38 percent. Those are among the reasons Gonzales calls the seat “a difficult open seat [for Democrats] to defend.”

In the Second District, Gonzales expects a rematch of 2016 when Lewis beat former medical device executive Angie Craig by less than two percentage points (47-45.2) with an independent candidate (Paula Overby) taking 7.8. At this point, Gonzales sees that rematch as among the (only) six toss-up races out of 435.

I wrote this post only to pass along the oddity that Minnesota has two of the six toss-ups, according to Gonzales. But to complete “Inside Elections” Minnesota overview:

Gonzales believes the suburban Third District, where Republican Erik Paulsen is in his fifth term, still “leans Republican.” But “leans” is the weakest advantage “Inside Elections” assigns.

Likewise, since 7th District incumbent Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson plans to seek a 15th term, that district also “leans Democrat.”

In the northeastern Minnesota 8th district, where ( even though Trump carried the district by 15 percentage points) incumbent DFLer Rick Nolan won last year and plans to seek another term, Gonzales says the district still “leans” Nolan’s way.

So, as Gonzales sees it a year out, five of Minnesota’s eight U.S. House races are likely to be pretty darn competitive.

The other Minnesota districts aren’t rated at all, which I take to mean that Reps. Betty McCollum in the St. Paul-based 4th District and Keith Ellison in the Minneapolis-based 5th are considered safe seats for the Dems. And Republican Tom Emmer in the central Minnesota Sixth is likewise rated as safe.