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Part of the GOP’s plan to pick off Peterson’s seat is to link him to Obama, whose poll numbers have slumped, in part, because of problems with the Affordable Care Act.
Arguing that Peterson has “waffled on Obamacare,” Craig Bishop, chairman of Minnesota’s Seventh District GOP, said the incumbent could be vulnerable this election cycle, especially on the health care law.
Peterson voted against the bill in 2010 but has since opposed Republican attempts to dismantle the law.
“They’re trying to convince people that I somehow or another have changed my position and I haven’t,” Peterson said.
In a show of support, high-profile House Democrats hosted a high-priced fundraiser for Peterson in November. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Tim Walz, who represents southern Minnesota and serves on the Agriculture Committee with Peterson, were among the hosts.
“Congress as a whole is a better place because he is here,” Walz said.
At least four other top Democrats on House committees have announced plans to retire or opted to run for another office. Peterson would be the fifth.
Describing the Agriculture Committee as apolitical, Peterson said having another chance to serve as chairman won’t influence his final decision.
“Long-term I need to ask myself ‘Am I going to be around for another farm bill?’ ” the 69-year-old said.
Should Peterson retire, Democrats could have a hard time defending the seat in a midterm election, said Dave Wasserman, who tracks congressional races for the Cook Political Report. Historically, the party of the president loses congressional seats during the midterms. The odds of Democrats keeping the seat would improve in 2016, a presidential election year that would bring out more young, Democratic voters to the polls, Wasserman said.
“The question is whether Peterson feels up to doing his party a favor by sticking around for at least another term,” he said.
State DFL Party chair Ken Martin said the party is eyeing several potential candidates should Peterson decide to walk away, including state Sen. Kent Eken, state Reps. Andrew Falk and Paul Marquart and former state Rep. Al Juhnke.
But Martin said he has not discussed a possible 2014 congressional run with any of them. He is still banking on Peterson to stay on.
“If Collin decides not to run again, it’s not because he’s worried about losing a race,” Martin said. “It would be because he’s decided he’s done what he could in Washington and it’s time to leave.”
Corey Mitchell is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau. Twitter: @C_C_Mitchell
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