Donald Trump came closer than any modern Republican to winning Minnesota’s 10 Electoral College votes. He fell a mere 45,000 votes short out of almost 3 million cast. Still, Republicans did retake the state senate and add to their then narrow house majority. But, it was Congressional Democrats that found the greatest success.
Not a single Congressional seat switched parties in the state, though 5 contests were close. The GOP narrowly held the suburban Minneapolis based 2nd CD and by a larger margin the 3rd while Democrats managed to hold the rural 1st, 7th and 8th districts.
Despite losing the state Trump actually managed to win 5 of the state’s 8 Congressional districts (3 of them held by Democrats) by wide margins. Trump won the 1st by 15 points, the 7th by a whopping 30 points and the 8th by 15 points. Clinton actually won the 3rd by about 9 points.
What Minnesota gives Democrats is hope that they can outrun the GOP tide in the future. This is the second election in a row Tim Walz has held his 1st district by a point in a GOP wave. Rick Nolan in the 8th fended off another stiff challenge from a repeat opponent. Collin Peterson, an institution in the 7th district, won a district by 7 points that Trump won by 30.
It is not just that these Democrats outran the Trump wave but they have consistently outrun GOP waves over and over again. If anything, these Congressman offer Democrats a route forward to winning competitive districts in unfriendly territory.
Even if you discount the fact the GOP did not target the 1st or the 7th this year and only the 8th it is clear that Minnesota stands as an aberration to the rest of the Midwest (and the nation for that matter) Out of the 100 or so districts the Daily Kos has compiled final numbers for only 8 have split their ticket for Congress and President. Half of them can be found in Minnesota and none showed such stark margin differences as Minnesota (indeed, the C/P results have all been within 2-5 points of each other).
It will likely only get harder for Democrats to replicate this kind of success in the future however. It takes long-time Congressmen with strong connections to their districts to outrun their party’s nominees over and over again. Once a Walz or Peterson retire odds are good Democrats will lose these increasingly red, non gerrymandered districts.
Worse, the increasingly young and urban coalition fueling Democrats makes it even harder for their party to find successors to a Walz or Peterson. As the party drifts left it remains unlikely a new candidate will be able to distance him/herself from the national brand.
Republicans would be smart to note these shifts and run candidates accordingly. The GOP threw millions into the 8th but their candidate, Stewart Mills, was a Romney in a younger skin competing in a district with a strong union, populist voting base. Republicans did not throw any money into the 7th and 8th this cycle. Perhaps they should in 2018.