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 NolanHold off on anti-mining hysteria until the facts are in Minnesota New Members 2019 Republicans pick up seat in Minnesota’s ‘Iron range’ 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 TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE made big gains for the Republicans two years ago, beating Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump 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 PenceFormer sheriff's deputy files lawsuit claiming he was fired for not wanting to be alone with a woman Iceland's prime minister will not be in town for Pence's visit Trump's latest plan to undermine Social Security 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 RyanUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Soaring deficits could put Trump in a corner if there's a recession Paul Ryan moving family to Washington MORE (R-Wis.), spent almost $900,000 in late ad buys supporting the GOP candidate.