Minnesota is one of the key states that will decide control of the House in this year’s midterm election. And Minnesota is unique in at least one regard: this is probably the only state where Democrats could plausibly lose ground. Both MN-1 and MN-8 voted for Donald Trump by substantial margins in 2016, and the Democratic incumbents in both seats are departing to pursue other offices. It’s easy to imagine Republicans flipping these seats in a more conducive national environment. Even in the environment of 2018, they represent a tough challenge for Democrats. At the same time, Republicans are defending two tough districts of their own in MN-2 – where Trump won by only 2 points – and MN-3, where Clinton won by 10.
Minnesota’s 1st congressional district – representing the cities of Rochester, Mankato, and Winona in the southern quarter of the state – has been represented by Tim Walz (D) since 2006. Since then, Walz has managed a series of increasingly tight victories, culminating in his 2016 defeat of Jim Hagedorn (R) by less than 1 point. Walz’s reelection came as Trump carried the district by 15 points.
Walz is retiring from the seat this year to run for the Minnesota governorship, with former Assistant Secretary of Defense Dan Feehan (D) running to replace him. Feehan faces Republican Jim Hagedorn, who is mounting his third consecutive bid for the seat. The Øptimus legislative model is skeptical of Democrats’ chances here, giving the GOP a 65% chance of flipping the district.
Finally, Democrats face another tough challenge in Minnesota’s ancestrally Democratic 8th congressional district. Represented by Rick Nolan (D) since 2012, the district contains the city of Duluth, as well as Minnesota’s Iron Range. Historically a mining hub and source of labor union strength, the district swung hard to Donald Trump in 2016, who won here by 15 points. At the same time, Rick Nolan eked-out a narrow half-point win against Republican Stewart Mills.
Nolan retired from the seat this year to wage an unsuccessful campaign for Minnesota Lieutenant Governor, running alongside state Attorney General Lori Swanson (D). Donald Trump’s impressive 2016 victory made MN-8 a top target for Republicans, who nominated St. Louis county commissioner Pete Stauber to run for the seat. Stauber faces Minnesota state representative Joe Radinovich (D). Stauber has led in fundraising, although polling indicates a tight race. The Øptimus model also views the race as a toss-up, giving Stauber a 57% chance of flipping the seat.