Republicans pick up seat in Minnesota’s ‘Iron range’

Republicans pick up seat in Minnesota’s ‘Iron range’
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Republican Pete Stauber won the contest Tuesday to replace outgoing Rep. Rick NolanRichard (Rick) Michael NolanMinnesota New Members 2019 Republicans pick up seat in Minnesota’s ‘Iron range’ How America’s urban-rural divide is changing the Democratic Party MORE (D) in northeast Minnesota, flipping one of the nation’s most vulnerable Democratic seats in favor of the GOP. 

Always a battleground, the district was thought to favor the Republicans this year after Nolan — who eked out a victory in 2016 with 50 percent of the vote — announced his retirement after three terms on Capitol Hill.

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Although former President Obama won the district in both 2008 and 2012, President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Trump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time MORE made big gains for the Republicans two years ago, beating Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone challenges Dems to produce WikiLeaks evidence Steve King asks Google CEO for names of employees to see if they're liberals O'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll MORE, the Democratic nominee, by a whopping 15 points. And Trump’s “America First” agenda has resonated in the sprawling, blue-collar border district that occupies the entire northeast section of the state. Leaving nothing to chance, both Trump and Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time On The Money: Trump, Dems battle over border wall before cameras | Clash ups odds of shutdown | Senators stunned by Trump's shutdown threat | Pelosi calls wall 'a manhood thing' for Trump MORE visited the district this year. 

Heading into Tuesday, the district was the only Democratic seat characterized as “lean Republican” by the election analysts at the Cook Political Report. 

Both candidates ran their campaigns vowing to shore up entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security — a topic of particular interest in a district where roughly 20 percent of the population is over 65. GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are eying cuts to the same programs, but Stauber — a 52-year-old county commissioner, former professional hockey player and retired policeman — portrayed himself as an independent voice who wouldn’t toe the party line.

In similar fashion, Stauber also distanced himself from the efforts of congressional Republicans to repeal ObamaCare — and, in turn, eliminate cost protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Radinovich, a 32-year-old a former member of Minnesota’s House, had highlighted those proposals as a threat to sick patients; Stauber, in turn, said he supports the pre-existing condition protections and wouldn’t repeal ObamaCare in full. 

Guns were also an issue in the campaign, with Radinovich backing tougher restrictions and a ban on high-capacity magazines. The Democrat had a personal story to back his stance: his mother was shot and killed in a murder-suicide when he was a teenager. But his position was nonetheless a gamble in a vast, rural district where hunting is sacrosanct.

Radinovich had a modest fundraising advantage, pulling in $2 million for the cycle, versus Stauber’s $1.6 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The campaign arms of both parties spent heavily in the district. Lending Stauber a late boost, the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a Republican super PAC affiliated with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Stefanik: GOP leaders need to step up their female recruitment efforts McConnell agrees to vote on Trump-backed criminal justice bill MORE (R-Wis.), spent almost $900,000 in late ad buys supporting the GOP candidate.