Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Ratings Change: Minnesota’s 7th District

Collin C. Peterson’s friends aren’t doing him any favors. When Reps. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., announced their retirements, it put two vulnerable Democratic seats into the GOP column. It also gives Republicans more time to focus on the DFL congressman from Minnesota.

The question is whether GOP pressure is discouraging Peterson or inspiring him to run again.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting Minnesota’s 7th District because of two key factors. Mitt Romney won there, 54 percent to 44 percent, over President Barack Obama in 2012. That would be the third best Romney district with a Democratic congressman running for re-election in 2014, behind West Virginia’s Nick J. Rahall II and Georgia’s John Barrow.

And Peterson hasn’t been tested in years. First elected in 1990, the congressman didn’t dip below 65 percent of the vote in seven re-election races from 1996 to 2008. In the Republican wave of 2010, the congressman received 55 percent, but upped his standing to 60 percent in 2012 against the same opponent.

Peterson has said Republican efforts have pushed him closer to running again. But he also hasn’t officially decided. The filing deadline isn’t until June 3.

Even though Peterson hasn’t had trouble winning re-election in the past, we initially rated the race as Democrat Favored because of the Republican nature of the district and the potential that Obama’s second midterm steers dramatically against his party.

Now it looks like Republicans have recruited a top candidate against Peterson. State Sen. Torrey Westrom is a veteran of the state Legislature and could have votes to be picked apart by Democrats. But he should also be the most credible opponent Peterson has faced in two decades.

That’s a big reason why we’re moving Minnesota’s 7th District to Lean Democrat from Democrat Favored in the Rothenberg Political Report/CQ Roll Call ratings.

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