House races

RACE OF THE DAY: Minn.-08

There wasn’t much “Minnesota nice” on display when the supporters of Rep. Jim Oberstar and his Republican challenger clashed at a debate Tuesday.

Minutes into his opening comments at a forum in Duluth, supporters of Chip Cravaack (R) began to shout the DFLer down with calls of “liar” and “Obama Junior.”

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party member Oberstar was cut short several times, according to the Duluth Tribune News, and began responding to Cravaack supporters as they heckled him.

“You just don’t want to hear the facts. You don’t want to hear the truth,” Oberstar told them at one point.

“You don’t know the truth,” a Cravaack supporter yelled. 

Oberstar was also heckled when the topic of climate change came up. Oberstar, who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, accused the Cravaack supporters of being in the “flat-earth society.” When he began listing statistics on warming trends, he was shouted down again with calls of “liar.”

Cravaack, meanwhile, promised he would “get rid of ObamaCare,” which pleased his supporters. 

“It’s going to be a job killer,” he said. “It’s going to put a bureaucrat between us and our doctor.”

The visceral reaction at the debate is the latest sign Oberstar, like other Democratic House committee chairmen, is facing the toughest reelection fight of his long career.

Earlier this month, Republicans circulated a Public Opinion Strategies poll showing Cravaack, a former Navy and Northwest Airlines pilot, trailing Oberstar by just three points — 42 percent to 45. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has predicted this race will be “one of the great upset stories in the country this year.”

The poll raised eyebrows considering that Oberstar, who was first elected to the House in 1974, is routinely reelected with more than 60 percent of the vote. But then reports surfaced that Oberstar had only one supporter from his district listed by name on his Federal Election Commission report for the third quarter.

Oberstar raised just over $232,000 between July 22 and the end of the September, while Cravaack raised $136,941 during the same period. The Republican has $132,297 cash on hand, compared to $513,848 Oberstar reported in his pre-general filing on Oct. 19.

Oberstar is taking heat for supporting the Obama administration’s agenda, particularly the healthcare reform bill. Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, which backed Oberstar until 2006, recently endorsed Cravaack. The DFLer, meanwhile, got the backing of the Air Line Pilots Association despite Cravaack’s career with Northwest. 

Cravaack has waged a more vigorous campaign than any of Oberstar’s recent opponents, giving Republicans hope that the GOP’s 2010 wave could stretch all the way across Minnesota’s Iron Range.

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