NRCC poll: Collin Peterson vulnerable
© Greg Nash

Longtime Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonDemocrats should stop agonizing over a national message for 2018 House Republicans reserve millions in early air time Path to Dem majority lies in well-educated districts MORE (D-Minn.) might face a tough race if he decides to run for reelection, according to a new poll conducted by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Peterson leads his likely GOP opponent, Torrey Westrom (R), by 46 percent to 39 percent in the poll's initial ballot test. After voters were given a positive description of Westrom, the Republican moves into a 51 percent to 36 percent lead.

Still, Peterson begins the race in a fairly strong position. He has a 58 percent approval rating in the poll, with just 23 percent of voters disapproving of him. The "informed" ballot the NRCC conducted after boosting Westrom doesn't include any negative attacks against him either, inflating that number significantly.

Partisan polls should always be viewed with some skepticism as well, as they're often released to build momentum for candidates.

Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, has fended off challengers for decades in the GOP-leaning district, and it will be a tough lift to oust him if he runs. He has yet to decide if he'll run again — he's said he'll likely decide in March — and if he does retire, the Republican-leaning district would be a likely Republican pickup.

The live-caller poll of 400 likely voters in the district was conducted From Feb. 3-5 by The Tarrance Group, a GOP firm. It has a 4.9 percent margin of error.