If Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her co-conspirator Barack Obama thought that passage of their healthcare bill would solve their political problems, they have made a gigantic miscalculation. As details of the 2700-page bill slowly leak out, the general public is reacting more and more negatively to its various controversial provisions. The Pelosi/Obama strategy was to pass the legislation without anyone reading it. In the short-term sense, this did work, but the long-term consequences for public opinion appear to be politically ominous.
In the Minnesota First District, Democratic (DFL) Congressman Tim Walz is in his second term. He ran originally as a moderate, and on his record as a career U.S. Army soldier. The First District is located in the southern portion of the state, and is half rural. The other half is made up of Rochester, the largest city in the region, and its suburbs. The Mayo Clinic, with thousands of physicians, nurses, medical technicians and administrative staff, are perhaps the largest single bloc in the district, and when you add the thousands of small businesses the huge Clinic supports, the figure is dispositive. The largest plant in the region is also located in Rochester, IBM Corporation.
The congressional vote in recent decades which has had more impact on these voters was for the Obamacare bill pushed through the Congress by the president and the Democrats. I think it is fair to say that most of the medical professionals, their families, and the businesses that support them are unhappy about this legislation. One would think that the area’s congressman, albeit a Democrat, would not have voted for it. (When the previous congressman, a Republican, failed to support Rochester on a railroad issue in 2006, he was, in fact, defeated by then- underdog Walz.) Obamacare is a much more serious threat to the livelihoods of Rochester area voters.
The other half of the district is primarily agricultural. Some are Democrats (DFers), but conservative. The only long-term successful DFL congressman in recent years was Tim Penny, a classical centrist whose economic conservatism reflected the views of the district’s residents.
Tim Walz is a likeable and hard-working person who initially enjoyed much popularity in the First District, and was re-elected by a wide margin in 2008 (although it was admittedly a Democratic tide year). But Walz has become, his critics say, a pawn of Nancy Pelosi (who campaigns in Minnesota for him). Nancy Pelosi represents an ultraliberal district in downtown San Francisco, and the pairing is an odd one for this
Four-term state Representative Randy Demmer has just been endorsed by his GOP district convention, and this means he will be the Republican nominee in November. Demmer was the underdog against an ultraconservative candidate who many thought would win, and then go on to lose the November election. For this reason primarily, this race has until now not appeared on most lists as a vulnerable Democratic seat.
That’s all changed now. Demmer is a successful small businessman, GOP leader on the state house tax committee, and a solid conservative who seems like a good fit for this area, but he is not well-known outside his legislative district. Nor has he yet shown the communication and campaign skills of his DFL opponent. Demmer’s wife is a long-time and respected nurse at the Mayo Clinic.
This is also not a seat that Walz and the DFL will surrender without a fight. Union members in the district will rally around the incumbent, and will provide him with logistical support. Liberals throughout the state, sensing this is the only competitive congressional race this year, are likely to pour in financial support.
Ironically, Walz was considered a serious contender for the DFL gubernatorial nomination this year, and it was believed he might have won party endorsement. Instead, Walz chose to run for his “safe” seat. But that was before his vote on Obamacare, the nomination of a credible candidate against him, and the tide turning against Democrats nationwide.
With the number of vulnerable Democratic seats rapidly grown to 50-75 (it was only 20-25 a few months ago), the last thing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee needs is one more seat to defend.