Ratings Change: Nolan Announcement Shifts Minnesota Open Seat to Toss-Up

February 9, 2018 · 11:35 AM EST

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan announced his retirement Friday, leaving Democrats with a vulnerable open seat to defend in a cycle when they need to gain 24 seats for a majority.

On one hand, the open seat looks like a gift to Republicans considering Donald Trump carried the district by nearly 16 points in 2016. Nolan is one of just 12 Democrats who represent a district that Trump carried in 2012, according to Daily Kos Elections, and won two close and expensive re-election races. 

But a closer look at past results isn't as good of news for the GOP. 

Trump was one of only two Republicans in 16 races over the last four election cycles to have carried the 8th District. The other was Chip Cravaack, the Republican who knocked off long-time DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar in the GOP wave of 2010. Nolan defeated Cravaack two years later. Trump's performance can't be ignored, but given the history of the President's party losing seats in midterm elections, this might be a case of Nolan retiring at the right time to give his party a chance to hold the 8th District.

We're changing our Inside Elections rating from Lean Democratic to Toss-Up. 

Republicans are excited about St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber, also a police officer in Duluth who played hockey in the Detroit Red Wings organization. But he announced his campaign on July 10 and had just $137,000 cash on hand as of Dec. 31.
Minnesota has a late primary (Aug. 14), and the filing deadline isn't until June 5. So there's plenty of time for the field to replace Nolan to solidify. And, as with all the races, our ratings will be partially dependent on the national political climate closer to Election Day.