Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson is keeping up his game of cat and mouse with Republicans who dream that he won't seek re-election.

Peterson, a Democrat and the dean of Minnesota's congressional delegation, was contemplating retirement after a long, frustrating battle to pass a five-year farm bill. But he remains in the 2014 race until further notice.

"I'm telling people that I'm running until I'm not," Peterson told the Star Tribune Wednesday. It was the same thing he told the paper several weeks ago.

With more than two decades in the House, including appointments as chairman and ranking minority member of the powerful House Agriculture Committee, Peterson would be hard to unseat in his farm-filled district that spans much of western Minnesota.

But the bruising farm bill battle stretched into 2014, more than a year longer than it should have. The fight left Peterson alternately angry and exhausted. In February, he told the Star Tribune he would decide by March whether he would seek re-election.

With March more than half gone and Peterson still in the race, some intrigue remains. At this point, his campaign fundraising totals are running slightly behind what they were in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. Speaking on background, one person who knows Peterson well told the Star Tribune that he expects the congressman to run.

Republicans hope that person is wrong because they held the district before Peterson's election in 1991 and think they could get it back if he leaves, given the agriculture community's conservative bent.

The rumor mill seems likely to churn until Peterson himself offers a definitive answer. He wasn't willing to do that last week.

For now, Peterson is — to use the Washington cliché — keeping his powder dry. And the longer he does, the greater the chance that the GOP dream of gaining a Minnesota House seat will be all wet.

Jim Spencer

Possible breakthrough on jobless benefits

Spokespeople say Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota will support a new bipartisan bill introduced on Thursday that extends unemployment insurance for Americans who have been out of work more than six months.

The long-term jobless lost their benefits in December when a temporary extension put in place because of the Great Recession expired. That expiration took away unemployment checks from roughly 2 million people.

Earlier Senate efforts to restore those benefits stalled when Republicans resisted a Democratic-sponsored bill.

The new bipartisan bill combines retroactive benefit extensions with pension contribution cuts by employers. It should come to a vote shortly after March 24, when the Senate returns from a recess.