Can Republicans find a piece of good news this election in Minnesota? Democrats have a good chance of retaking control of the Senate, and think they might have an opening to challenge for control of the House if Donald Trump drops far enough behind Hillary Clinton. However, one traditionally Democratic House seat might flip back to Republicans for only the second time in over 40 years — and Trump might be the reason why.
Incumbent Democrat Rick Nolan will need to come from behind to hold onto his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted for KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities. Democrats expect to pick-up House seats in the 2016 general election, but this has the potential to be a District that flips from Blue to Red.
Republican challenger Stuart Mills, who lost to Nolan by 3,700 votes in 2014, today narrowly edges Nolan, 45% to 41%, with 14% of likely voters still on the fence and able to swing the contest one way or the other. Either candidate may emerge.
Mills leads among voters younger than 64. Nolan leads only among seniors age 65+. Mills has a 10-point advantage among men, which Nolan cannot overcome with his 3-point advantage among women. 84% of Republicans vote for the Republican; 89% of Democrats vote for the Democrat. But independent voters — critical to both candidates — break for Mills at this hour, 45% to 35%, enough to make him the favorite.
The Cook index for MN-08 suggests this should be a swing district at D+1, but the Iron Range has been a bastion of Democratic support for decades. Apart from a single Republican term won by Chip Cravaack in the 2010 midterm wave, three Democrats have represented MN-08 since 1947: John Blatnik (14 terms), Jim Oberstar (18 terms), and now Nolan (two terms). The union-heavy, working-class district has voted heavily Democratic in presidential elections as well.
This year, though, that might change, and it could be that Trump might deliver this seat. According to this SUSA/KSTP poll, Trump has a 12-point lead over Hillary Clinton, 47/35. Nolan’s outperforming Hillary, but not by enough to keep control of his own seat. An incumbent at 41% in a two-way race is in dire shape, especially this close to the election, since undecideds will usually break for the challenger. Mills has a 10-point lead among independents too, but Trump leads in that group by an almost 2:1 margin (49/25). Both lead in both cell phone and landline contacts over their Democratic opponents.
What besides the national trend toward populism is driving these numbers? The poll itself suggests that ObamaCare has the biggest impact. Health care is cited as the top issue in the election (26%), barely edging terrorism and national security (25%), and voters are clearly angry about the collapsing ObamaCare markets. A plurality of 45% want the ACA repealed, while only 30% support fixing it and just 13% want a full government takeover of healthcare, and Trump wins 39/35 among those citing health care as their top issue. Among the top five issues listed, Hillary only leads among those who prioritize education; Trump scores a majority in the other three (taxes, terrorism, and mining — the main industry in the Iron Range).
Trump’s polling gives a strong indication that he’s on his way to defeat, but it’s not bad news everywhere. If Republicans pick up a seat in MN-08, it seems pretty likely that they’re still competitive in other swing districts, too.
Worth noting: The same pollster had worse news for Republicans in MN-02 last week, where John Kline’s retirement left an open seat. Democrat Angie Craig has a five-point lead over former conservative-libertarian radio talk show host Jason Lewis, and Trump trails Hillary by eight points in a district that John McCain won by two in 2008 and Romney lost by a tenth of a point four years ago. It’s very possible that we’ll see more of a reshuffling of House seats rather than a dramatic shift in the balance in two weeks.