Taint of shutdown, new district makeup could color the 2014 race.
Washington – Re-election may have just become more complicated for U.S. Rep. John Kline in his moderate suburban district.
Republican poll numbers have plummeted nationwide after the 16-day government shutdown, as the GOP takes the brunt of the public’s wrath.
Kline is a prime Democratic target who won his last election by a narrow margin, and his challengers are buoyed by the aftermath of the political slugfest that has left Republicans reeling.
“Any Republican congressional incumbent in a district that isn’t deep red needs to take serious the possibility that the race will be more competitive than they assumed it would be a month ago,” said Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier.
Despite Democrats’ sensing an opening, the path to unseating Kline could prove difficult.
Kline was a top target a year ago, yet managed to win, even with President Obama atop the ticket.
Now, he has $1.3 million banked for his re-election run, giving him an 11-to-1 fundraising advantage over former state Rep. Mike Obermueller, the presumed DFL front-runner in the Second District.
The Rothenberg Political Report, a respected political handicapper, lists Kline’s seat, which covers the Twin Cities’ southern suburbs, as “Republican-favored.”
But the shutdown may have shaken things up, at least temporarily.
A poll of 825 likely voters conducted this week for House Majority PAC, a political action committee working to elect Democrats to the U.S. House, shows Obermueller leading Kline, 42 to 38 percent.
Conducted by liberal-leaning firm Public Policy Polling, the poll also found that 42 percent of respondents view Kline unfavorably, compared to 32 percent favorably. The numbers for his job approval are similar.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points, and its results resemble national numbers that may be troubling for Republicans, even for an election that is still more than a year away.
The GOP’s post-shutdown image hit an all-time low, as measured by a Washington Post-ABC News poll, in a survey released Tuesday: 32 percent of the public saw the GOP favorably; 63 percent had an unfavorable view.
Kline’s campaign brushed aside talk of sagging approval ratings in the shutdown’s immediate aftermath. In the end, Kline helped end the standoff by crossing party lines to vote with Democrats and against hard-line Republicans like Rep. Michele Bachmann to get a compromise bill through the House.
“The only poll that matters is on Election Day — 13 months from now — and Congressman Kline has a strong record of receiving solid support from Minnesotans in the Second District regardless of the political climate because they recognize he represents their views and values and is fighting for them,” said campaign spokesman Troy Young.
Among the 435 U.S. House districts, Kline holds one of just 17 Republican seats in districts that President Obama won last year.
Obama also won in Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen’s district, but no candidates from either party have yet stepped forward to challenge Paulsen.