House Republicans don't have many offensive opportunities this cycle, but New York Times/Siena College poll taken last week found Republican Pete Stauber leading DFL nominee Joe Radinovich 49 percent to 34 percent in Minnesota's 8th CD, where DFL Rep. Rick Nolan is retiring. Democrats dispute Radinovich is behind by 15 points, but privately acknowledge Stauber has pulled ahead.
This union-heavy Iron Range district swung harder to President Trump in 2016 than any other competitive seat, voting for him 54 percent to 38 percent after twice voting for Barack Obama. And unlike the open 1st CD in southern Minnesota, a corn and soybean-growing district where steel and aluminum tariffs are unpopular, the mining-oriented 8th CD's voters are likelier to be true Trump believers.
Moreover, Republicans have a uniquely appealing nominee in Stauber, a St. Louis County Commissioner. As a 23-year veteran of the Duluth Police Department and union member who briefly played hockey in the Detroit Red Wings organization, Stauber is a much better fit for this blue-collar seat than wealthy 2014/2016 nominee Stewart Mills III, whom Democrats caricatured mercilessly.
Radinovich, a former state representative and campaign manager for Nolan and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, stresses his humble roots and emerged from a crowded primary with 44 percent in August. But Republican groups have effectively driven up his negatives by attacking his tax votes in the legislature and his traffic record, including five suspended licenses and a drug paraphernalia arrest.
Democrats' odds of holding the seat are further complicated by the presence of Independence Party nominee Skip Sandman on the ballot. In 2014, Sandman took four percent of the vote as the Green Party nominee here. The DCCC has spent heavily to keep Radinovich in the game, but may shift its resources elsewhere. The race moves from Toss Up to the Lean Republican column.
Image: Pete Stauber | Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call