Just wanted to flag The Cook Political Report’s new 2018 House Race Ratings from this morning.
MN-08 was moved from “Lean Democratic” to “Toss Up” – making Rick Nolan the single most vulnerable Democrat House incumbent in the country.
This comes after Roll Call put Nolan on their top 10 most vulnerable incumbents list.
MN-08: Rick Nolan (D) – Northeast/Iron Range: Duluth, Bemidji
Toss Up. Nolan survived 2016 by just 2,009 votes while Trump clobbered Clinton in this Iron Range district, 54 percent to 38 percent. Nolan’s ads highlighting his Minnesota authenticity helped him, but another key was Democrats’ ads casting two-time GOP nominee Stewart Mills III as an out-of-touch millionaire. Mills just announced he won’t run a third time, clearing the Republican field for St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber.
Stauber, a 23-year veteran of the Duluth Police Department who briefly played hockey in the Detroit Red Wings organization, could hold more appeal with blue-collar voters than Mills. Whereas Mills was famous (or infamous) for his slick long hair, Stauber will highlight his union membership. Republicans are also eager to attack what they say are Nolan’s flip-flops on the Iron Range’s mining permitting issues, which could squeeze him from both the right and left.
Nolan’s more recent calls to reverse Obama-era guidance on mineral leases have generated a primary challenge for the DFL nomination from Leah Phifer, a former FBI counter-terrorism analyst who has toured the district on her motorcycle. Phifer isn’t likely to defeat Nolan, but attacks from the left could end up bleeding some votes to Green Party candidate Skip Sandman, who will be on the November ballot. Sandman took four percent in 2014 and didn’t run in 2016.
Even in a terrific political environment for Democrats nationally, the combination of these unique factors make Nolan the single most vulnerable Democratic incumbent in 2018.