Some pundits eye Paulsen/Meffert race as potential DFL pickup

By Andy Birkey
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 8:30 am

Photo: Jim Meffert for Congress

While most eyes are focused on Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District and the spectacle that is already Rep. Michele Bachmann vs. Sen. Tarryl Clark, some political watchers see a potential battle in Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District between freshmen Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen and his DFL challenger Jim Meffert. Though some say it’s a long shot, others think the DFL would do well to invest resources there in support of Meffert.

The New York Times’ political prediction maker Nate Silver has Paulsen the likely favorite, predicting he will finish the race comfortably with 62 percent and Meffert at 35 percent, and the Cook Political Report doesntt see it as a competitive race. It’s not even on their radar.

But the popular election tracking website rates the race as a pure tossup. According to the site’s author, Andrew S. Tanenbaum, Paulsen should be vulnerable even in a good year for Republicans.

Freshman Erik Paulsen won this exactly evenly split district [between Democrats and Republicans] with only 48% of the vote in a three-way race in 2008. There is some evidence that the Independence Party candidate hurt the Democrat more than he hurt Paulsen. Furthermore, Obama carried the district with 52% of the vote. All in all, Paulsen will definitely be on the Democrats’ radar in 2010. Their candidate is Jim Meffert, the executive director of the Minnsota Optometric Association, who has never run for public office before. He is clearly not as strong a candidate as the Democrats would have liked, but in an evenly split district he has a shot at it.

And Hamline University professor David Schultz, says the DFL should pull resources from trying to defeat Bachmann and lend them to Meffert.

“Since election, Paulsen has spoken moderate but voted right,” Schultz wrote on his blog. “He has a voting record nearly identical to Bachmann’s voting with her over 90% of the time. He has no real accomplishments to show, and about the only news about him has been how he appeared to gouge the House franking privilege by sending out hundreds of thousands of dollars in mail to his constituents, at taxpayer expense.”

The district, he said, is more moderate than Paulsen.

Too many people have heard me argue that campaigns are won or lost based on how well you capture the swing voter. The most critical swing voter in Minnesota remains the suburban mom with kids – the soccer mom. These women are less and less likely to vote GOP because of its agenda. These women are worried about family issues–early childhood ed, K-12, jobs, and health care for their children. Minnesota’s third district is soccer mom heaven. It is heavily dominated by soccer moms in the suburbs, and they are ready to swing.
Some analysis and polls suggest Paulsen’s agenda is way out of line with voters here. Less than half have a favorable view of him, with many outright unwilling to vote for him again were there a choice. This is where Jim Meffert comes in.

Schultz says Meffert fits the district but does not get the attention needed to be competitive.

Jim Meffert is a terrific candidate for the third district, if only he could get the attention of the media, Democrats, and the voters. He is a St. Olaf grad, serving there as the president of the college Republicans. He became a Democrat because, like the soccer moms of his district, he saw the GOP moving in a direction he did not like. Jim has worked with the PTA and on education issues, he comes from peace and justice wing of the religious community, and he talks of government and business working together to solve problems. All of these are perfect themes for this district.

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Comment posted September 14, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

You can throw out all the numbers from 2008 when you’re trying to analyze this year’s election because the turnout of the young and the clueless that put Obama in the White House and dragged along anyone with a “D” after their name was an anomaly.

Those voters won’t be back this cycle. And the fact that Bachmann won last time, even when most other republicans lost? is bad news for Clark this time.

Zera Lee
Comment posted September 14, 2010 @ 5:07 pm

Paulson is an incumbent in an anti-incumbent election cycle. A political NO-body.

Meffert is a businessman and a political outsider in an election cycle that is anti-insider.

You would think that Meffert fits the political mood quite nicely. I think he has a name recognition problem that needs some serious attention.

Comment posted September 15, 2010 @ 9:10 am

Has the author visited the district? The fact that Paulsen got 48% of the vote in the most severe anti-Republican election since the mid 1970′s speaks more about his prospects than the analysis above.

Biased interpretation of selective data is a great way to feel good about one’s candidate, but isn’t really helpful for predictions.

Eric Larson
Comment posted September 15, 2010 @ 10:02 am

At best this is wishful thinking. At least its delusional.
What is clear, even for a partizan journal, is that this article is a poor example of journalism. Mr. Birkey; Do you have any thing worth reading today?

Comment posted September 15, 2010 @ 11:47 am

As a resident of the 3rd District, I too would like to hear more about Meffert. At least in my neighborhood, most of us are pretty fed up with Republicans, and are informed enough to know that the lack of Democratic accomplishments is wholly due to Republican intransigence. Tying Paulsen to the Bachmann nutbag in terms of votes cast and then spotlighting Meffert is the key to DFL victory here.

Comment posted September 15, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

As a resident “soccer Mom” in the 3rd district, I want everyone to stop assuming that as a group we vote DFL or will in this cycle. Yes, I am worried about K-12, jobs and healthcare. But I believe lower taxes and accountability are the way to fix those issues. Higher taxes and the Health Care reform bill are killing jobs and health care, and throwing money at K-12 IS NOT the way to fix it.

Comment posted September 17, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

Terraformer, I’ve been volunteering for the Jim Meffert campaign all summer. I know if you’d call the office (on their website) they’d love to hear from you and discuss the race, maybe web set up a meet and greet with you and your neighbors. Please give them a call!!

Comment posted September 18, 2010 @ 11:25 am

I had to go to the web and spend time to find out who the DFL candidate is in the 3rd District. I have seen ZERO yard signs, and I did not know who the candidate is. Now that I have his name, I still am not sure that I know anything about this candidate.

Greg Van Hee
Comment posted October 11, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

Could it be that the best people to represent the average American are those running with few if any attack television ads? These ads don’t tell us what a candidate is going to do to solve our serious problems. They are generalized statements that often distort an issue and give a false impression about it simply to score political points. For instance, criticizing someone for agreeing with the so-called 500 billion dollar cut in Medicare fails to confront some very large waste in the program. I’m a senior citizen and know that nearly a third of the program is spent on the last 30 days of terminal patients’ lives when they are too frequently wired up for survival in critical care units as expensive as 10 -15 thousand a day. Almost all studies show that the same sort of very sick people survive an average of 28 days more comfortably at home or hospice with proper medications. Yet, the attack ads are intended to play on the fears of older citizens, instead of honestly address the issue. This sort of manipulation of and insult to our intelligence is not what would recommend a candidate using such ploys to me.

Comment posted October 25, 2010 @ 11:32 pm

It’s maddening that Meffert isn’t getting the positive attention he deserves. He’s sharp, very principled, lives a modest lifestyle, works hard and is sort of the non-politician’s politician. In fact, he’s an unlikely person to be in politics because he doesn’t fit the stereotype. He is actually dedicated to doing the right thing and listening to all sides. He’s just normal, I wish more people would check out his policies and have a chance to meet him. Besides, he looks like Doogie Hauser!

Comment posted October 28, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

Rep Paulson is out of touch with our values, He replaced a Republican moderate. Although Mr Meffert is a Democrat, we need him.

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