Stylistically, the mild-mannered and neighborly Erik Paulsen is a good fit for this highly college-educated suburban Minneapolis seat. In 2016, he won his fifth term with 57 percent while Hillary Clinton won it 50 percent to 41 percent. But in a stunning turn, he's now trailing badly in polls and on the verge of being abandoned by his party, in part because his votes for the GOP healthcare and tax bills shredded his moderate credentials.
Democrats have a strong nominee in vodka and gelato businessman Dean Phillips, the grandson of advice columnist "Dear Abby" and the great-great-grandson of the founder of the Minneapolis-based Phillips Distilling Company. Despite his personal wealth, he hasn't self-funded and has sought to channel the late populist Sen. Paul Wellstone by driving around in a refurbished 1960s-era International Harvester he calls a "government repair truck."
Republicans have sought to attack Phillips as a slicked-back, out-of-touch millionaire who calls for universal health care but didn't offer coverage to his coffee shop employees. And Paulsen has tried to create separation from President Trump by airing an ad featuring him paddling a canoe, touting his opposition to mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area. But so far, those ads don't appear to be denting Phillips's advantage.
A new New York Times/Siena poll showed Phillips leading the incumbent 51 percent to 42 percent, mirroring private data collected by both parties. And Democrats have already reserved millions in the Minneapolis market to argue Paulsen has "voted with Trump 97 percent of the time." GOP outside groups have begun discussing shifting funds elsewhere. The race moves from Toss Up to the Lean Democratic column.
MN-03: 2016 Presidential Results
Image: MN-03 Debate | Credit: Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP