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“Collin has to be careful in this district, careful in what he says, careful in how he votes,” said Craig Bishop, chairman of the state’s Seventh District Republican Party.
The NRCC spent $2,000 on the early ad campaign against Peterson, which is a paltry sum, said John Geer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. “It’s just not that much money.”
The committee has spent six times as much on ads for other Democratic targets.
Meanwhile, the release announcing the Peterson ads was not personalized. After chiding Peterson for expecting “Minnesota seniors to foot the bill for his unbalanced, irresponsible priorities,” the statement from communications director Andrea Bozek read: “Peterson owes Utah families an explanation for his poor record, and his support of wildly expensive law that hurts jobs and Utah’s seniors.”
Political committees on both sides often run the same ads in various states, changing only the candidates’ names.
Missteps aside, Republicans say that Peterson has lost touch with his district and that a strong candidate could test his mettle and voting record in 2014.
“We are committed to supporting a candidate that best reflects the views of Minnesota’s Seventh District,” Marre said.
‘Shots across the bow’
This early in the election cycle, the NRCC ad buy may signal to potential Republican candidates that they’re prepared to “fire a few shots across the bow” and devote more resources in a bid to unseat Peterson, Geer said.
“I bet the candidates running against that incumbent haven’t been that good,” he said. “If you can give the Republicans a reason to vote for one of their own, they will.”
During the past eight elections, Peterson has faced a string of challengers with limited political experience. Among them, former state Sen. Dan Stevens was the only candidate who had served in the Legislature. Peterson trounced him by 30 percentage points in 2002.
In each of the last two elections, Peterson soundly defeated businessman Lee Byberg by more than 20 percentage points.
Byberg has not announced plans for a third run at Peterson’s seat. Bishop, the district GOP chairman, said former state House candidate Scott Van Binsbergen of Montevideo formed an exploratory committee for 2014, but has not committed to challenging Peterson.
With no candidate in place, national Democrats have not blinked at the latest threat from Republicans. Of the seven Democrats targeted, five are in the DCCC’s Frontline Program, an effort led by Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., to protect incumbents in politically vulnerable House seats. Peterson, a capable fundraiser with deep ties in the agriculture industry, has not been asked to join the program.
“[Republicans] haven’t done a thing,” Peterson said. “They’re going to have a hard time getting any traction.”
Corey Mitchell is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau. Twitter: @C_C_Mitchell