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At the Races: Land of 10,000 Races

Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns


Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter by subscribing here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé, Bridget Bowman and Stephanie Akin

This week … Minnesota House races set up the battle for the House, one Republican in Trump country continued to fight for survival, and vulnerable Republicans nabbed some victories before recess.


UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 18: Pete Stauber, Republican candidate for Minnesota's 8th Congressional District, talks on the phone during a meet and greet with local GOP politicians in Park Rapids, Minn., on September 18, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Pete Stauber, the GOP nominee in Minnesota’s 8th District, has been touted as House Republicans’ top recruit this cycle. In a year when House Democrats are expected to make gains across the country, can Stauber flip a Democratic district that went for President Donald Trump by 16 points? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Starting Gate

Home on the Range: Outside Republican groups are spending big in Minnesota’s 8th District, home to the Iron Range, trying to put Democratic-Farmer-Labor nominee Joe Radinovich on defense early. Congressional Leadership Fund has reserved nearly $4 million here. As Simone reported from the 8th, Radinovich is responding by opening up about his own story of family tragedy and trying to connect that to his policy message. He’ll face Stauber in what’s likely to be, once again, one of the most expensive House races. 

*Bookmark* Minnesota is home to *a lot* of competitive races this cycle, and early voting has already begun. Over six days, Simone drove 1,000 miles across the state to catch up with 12 candidates. She broke down the importance of those races with Roll Call deputy editor Jason Dick on the latest Political Theater podcast.

The Gopher’s Running: Despite his district voting for Democrats at the top of the ticket, GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen (whom his Capitol Hill roommates mock for living in the basement) has always survived in Minnesota’s 3rd District. In fact, in 2016, he overcame Democratic attempts to tie him to candidate Donald Trump, winning re-election by a whopping 14 points. But the five-term congressman’s fortunes may not be so rosy this year. Why? The short answer is that Trump is president now. Paulsen is making the case that he can be a check on the president, but that may not be enough for this district’s infamous ticket-splitting voters.

Both Paulsen and Democratic challenger Dean Phillips participated in an annual parade in Plymouth, Minn., last weekend, complete with a pig and a “Government Repair Truck” in tow. Get your fill of autumnal campaign fanfare in Simone’s video from the 3rd District and watch this recap of all the state’s competitive races.

A Tenney-ous Position: President Donald Trump won GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney’s upstate New York district by 16 points in 2016, but she is still considered one of the most vulnerable House incumbents. So how is she working to turn out her voters? And why are Democrats optimistic about winning this conservative-leaning district? Check out Bridget’s dispatch from the district to find out. And she broke down the race in this quick video.

These Boots Were Not Made for Ranching: Democrats are going all in on Matt Rosendale, the GOP Senate nominee in Montana, for not being a real rancher. Majority Forward’s first TV ad in the state shows an actor playing Rosendale wearing white cowboy boots, struggling to carry hay, and lifting a saddle out of the trunk of a Jaguar. Democratic incumbent Jon Tester has never won more than 50 percent of the vote in his previous Senate runs, and Democrats know their best strategy is painting a contrast between Tester’s brand as a farmer and playing up Rosendale’s out-of-state roots. 

About Those Pelosi Ads: Republicans are quick to tie Democrats to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whom Republicans see as a polarizing and unpopular figure. But House leadership reporter Lindsey McPherson dug into recent polls and found that GOP attacks tying candidates to Pelosi aren’t really resonating with voters.

The Count: 28

Lindsey McPherson strikes again! She also analyzed whether vulnerable House Republicans have been given votes this week on their own bills, which they could tout leading up to Nov. 6. She found that 28 of 57 Republicans in competitive seats have gotten votes on their bills. More on that here.

Nathan’s Notes

Tired of all the craziness in Washington lately? So is Stu Rothenberg, he writes in his latest column. And if you missed it last week, Stu also wrote about how voters in this year’s midterm elections don’t seem to be all that focused on the economy.

Candidate Confessions

House Republicans’ second best pickup opportunity is also in Minnesota, where Jim Hagedorn is running as the 1st District nominee for the third time. Since he’s run so many times before, his past controversial comments (calling Washington state’s female senators “bimbos,” for example) are well-known. Except, of course, to NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers, who stunned reporters earlier this month when he said he was unfamiliar with those remarks. Asked last week whether he’d ever spoken to the NRCC about his comments, Hagedorn said no. “Everybody — look you can go online and see what they write about me, everybody knows that,” he said.

Reader’s Race



Florida’s 15th District, where Rep. Dennis A. Ross is retiring after four terms, is among a handful of Republican-held seats in the state considered flippable this year. That prospect gained steam earlier this month when internal polling showed Democrat Kristen Carlson essentially tied with Republican Ross Spano in a district Trump carried by 10 points. Shortly afterward, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put Carlson on its Red to Blue list for top candidates.

Carlson, a former prosecutor and general counsel at the Florida Department of Citrus, is one of six Democrats in the Sunshine State on the list. Spano is a state representative who was backed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in last month’s primary. He ended the pre-primary reporting period with a financial advantage, $111,000 in the bank to Carlson’s $51,000. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.

For next week, email us at and let us know which race you want to know more about: Arkansas’ 2nd District or Pennsylvania’s 16th District.

Photo Finish

Thank you to everyone who came out last night for our live At the Races event! We had a great time talking about the midterm elections with Fox News’ Ed Henry (a Roll Call alum). Check out the highlights in this video below.

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