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Chip Cravaack Navigates Tricky Race

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Chip Cravaack has a complicated path to re-election.

“This is a split district that’s culturally conservative. I mean, Jim Oberstar was endorsed by the NRA. Rick Nolan is not the Jim Oberstar Democrat,” Golnik said.

Lindstrom added that Cravaack has done a good job of legislating as a Republican in a traditionally Democratic district, voting in favor of union-friendly bills and against environmental regulations that could hurt mining jobs that many in the 8th district depend on. 

“Cravaack’s done a good job positioning himself as a moderate,” Lindstrom said. “He’s been positioning himself as a guy who’s fighting for jobs by fighting the EPA.”

The Nolan campaign took issue with any suggestion that Cravaack was a good fit for the district, let alone a better fit than the former Congressman.

Michael Misterek, Nolan’s campaign manager, said Cravaack’s vote for current Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s (Wis.) budget — which includes a provision that would turn Medicare into a voucher program — would hurt the incumbent in the district, which has a large aging population. 

“What this election is going to come down to is who the voters feel is looking out for the middle class,” Misterek said. “It’s become very clear that Chip Cravaack voted twice for the Ryan budget to turn Medicare into a voucher system ... and at the end of the day, your record is what it is. You can try and distort it, but voting to turn Medicare into a voucher system is a detrimental vote.”

Democratic strategists are quick to add that the tea party wave that Cravaack rode into office in 2010 is no longer strong in Minnesota, and that organizational issues plaguing the Minnesota Republican Party — including the party’s debt load causing them to fall behind on the rent on their St. Paul headquarters, and a sex scandal between a GOP aide and the state Senate Majority Leader — makes the seat ripe for picking for Nolan.

“There is chaos on the ground,” one Democratic aide said. “[Minnesota Republicans] are not in any kind of shape to win back any seats, [or] to buffer someone like Cravaack who needs all the help he can get.”

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