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The Republicans surprisingly won the state legislature in 2010 although they unsurprisingly lost the governors race. Let’s say they had gotten the trifecta in 2010…what could they have done? Plenty. Forget rules. And before I go any further, I know some folks will say I broke a lot of rules but I would argue Republicans have a thirst for power unmatched by Democrats and if the “rules” stand in their way, to heck with them. The two big objectives I had were to create two districts the Republicans have wanted to create for awhile (I’ll get to that in a minute) and create multiple opportunity districts for them, if they don’t nominate Michele Bachmann-crazy-like candidates, which of course isn’t a sure thing. No doubt the districts could be a dummy-mander for Republicans, but Minnesota is a fairly blue state so there is a limit to what Republicans can do.

Republicans in Minnesota for awhile have wanted to pack Democrats into two districts. One district combines St. Paul and Minneapolis into a massive vote sink while keeping them intact. Historically, each city has been in a separate district. But who cares about history? The other district takes the Iron Range district—the 8th—and makes it an east-west district that is more of a northern Minnesota district rather than an Iron Range district. This is an interesting concept because Iron Rangers in the east and farmers in the west are vastly different rural constituencies. I think the 8th I ended up drawing attests to that. So, let’s see what could have happened:

1st (blue)
This is John Kline’s (R-Lakeville) new district. Kline presents himself as a mainstream conservative and while he had a close race in 2012 and would need to constantly be on guard in this seat, he’s proven he can do it well.  The district will actually get bluer over time since Dakota County and Rochester are both getting more progressive. If the seat opened up, Dems would have a very good shot here but with Kline a powerful incumbent, this would almost always at least Tilt R with him, barring a wave. Kline would likely lose it in a Dem wave.

2008 Obama: 51.8% (Kline’s old district, the 2nd, is 50.5%, in the current court-drawn map)

2nd (green)
Now this is Tim Walz’s (D-Mankato) district. Walz loses Rochester, keeps his Mankato base, but picks up ultra red Scott County. He also gets red Sibley and Redwood counties, and I don’t give him Northfield either (assuming Kline is powerful enough to hold down the 1st). Walz would have a fight on his hand. Tilt D with Walz but he could be out in a Republican wave and it’s a tossup at best without him.

2008 Obama: 49.2% (Walz’s old district, the 1st, is 50.8%, in the current court-drawn map)

3rd (purple)
With Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) picking up blue areas such as St. Louis Park, Hopkins, and Richfield, he needed plenty of red areas to counter that, and he found it in absorbing all of Carver County. Like Kline, Paulsen presents himself as a mainstream conservative (a tad more moderate than Kline) and he’s done quite well for himself and is a strong incumbent. Down-ballot races have leaned Republican until recently so the Obama percentage doesn’t tell the full story. Lean R in open seat situation and Likely R with Paulsen.

2008 Obama: 52.7% (is 51% in the current court-drawn map)

4th (red)
This is a Republican opportunity district. Northern Ramsey County along with northern and eastern suburbs and exurbs.  Probably a toss-up but as long as Republicans don’t nominate Michelle Bachmann, who does live in this district, they’d have a decent chance. Of course, we can’t really count on Republicans to nominate their most electable candidate, especially with the convention system in Minnesota.

2008 Obama: 50.8% (is 62.6% currently)

5th (yellow)
The great Democratic vote sink that the Republicans wanted to draw back in 2001 and would stop at nothing to do if they had the power to.  You can’t quite fit in all of Minneapolis and all of St. Paul into the same district; otherwise, there are too many people. So, I took a select few St. Paul precincts that were relatively unfriendly to Obama (70% or less of the vote going to him!) and put them in the 4th. McCollum/Ellison slugfest here.

2008 Obama: 78.8% (is 73.4% currently)

6th (teal)
So I realize Michele Bachmann can’t run here, or anywhere really. Republicans would probably give her a district because they love her. But the smart ones know she actually hurts the chances of other Republicans getting elected to other marginal districts. So yes, this map doesn’t really give her a place to run. But now she’s retiring so who cares. This district used to be the most conservative in the state but now it’s pretty swingy with parts of St. Cloud and northern Minneapolis suburbs that are blue mixed with very red areas in between and Wright County. With a conservative but not fire-breathing tea partier, Republicans have an opportunity here. Tilt R

2008 Obama: 48.4% (is 43.2% currently)

7th (Gray)
Collin Petersen (D-Detroit Lakes) still lives in this district but it’s changed a lot. He loses blue Clay County and has most of Saint Cloud. But he picks up red-leaning Crow Wing County. Interestingly, this is where Rick Nolan (D-Brainerd) lives. So I don’t know what either of those guys would decide to do. Nolan doesn’t really represent much of this area currently, though he has in the past (30 years ago…). If Republicans got a strong candidate, I’d say that person has an edge over Nolan and probably even an edge over Petersen. Petersen would put up a good fight but he’s old (so is Nolan) and I’m not sure he’d want to introduce himself to some of those new voters. My guess is both guys retire.

2008 Obama: 44.7% (is 47.1% now)

8th (slate blue)
As I mentioned, Rick Nolan doesn’t live here. The 8th, along with the 5th, represents what Republicans have wanted to do for a long time but tradition (and power) has not allowed them to do.  The Iron Range is now combined with far western farming counties, even shifting down south on the far western end to pick up ancestrally Democratic farming communities in Chippewa, Big Stone, and Swift Counties. This splits the farming communities in west-central Minnesota to deprive Petersen of winning the 7th or 8th. This 8th isn’t a good fit for Petersen or Nolan, but would be a slug fest between Iron Rangers in the east and farmers in the west.  It is Safe D.

2008 Obama: 56.4% (is 53.05% now)

So by my tally, counting Kline, Paulsen, Walz in but Bachmann, Petersen and Nolan, out:
1st: Lean R
2nd: Lean D
3rd: Safe R
4th: Tossup
5th: Safe D
6th: Lean R
7th: Likely R
8th: Safe D

With no incumbents:
1st: Tossup
2nd: Tossup
3rd: Lean R
4th: Tossup
5th: Safe D
6th: Lean R
7th: Likely R
8th: Safe D
So the current 5-3 map could go 2-6 if Republicans were smart. 3-5 since Walz is a strong incumbent.

*Update*
Based on feedback, it seems if Republicans want to lock in their members, we should create another Safe D seat. Switching around the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 6th, we end up with:

Outer Metro:

Inner Metro:
The 2nd, 7th, and 8th didn't change. 5th had some changes but Obama %age of 78.8% didn't change.

Now the 1st is 51.0% Obama, the 3rd is 60.2% Obama, the 4th is 46.3% Obama, and the 6th is 46.6% Obama.

New Ratings:
1st: Lean R with Kline (Tossup otherwise)
2nd: Lean D with Walz (Tossup otherwise)
3rd: Safe D, and a seat for Betty McCollum
4th: Likely R
5th: Safe D
6th: Likely R
7th: Likely R
8th: Safe D

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