(Bloomberg Businessweek) — Representative Collin Peterson’s reelection campaign got a call this summer about some trouble downstate in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District. Farmers supporting the 15-term Democratic congressman, who chairs the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, had put Peterson placards up along a stretch of highway. The problem, according to the worried campaign volunteer, was that they were sitting next to signs for President Donald Trump.
“What do you mean, a problem?” an aide asked the volunteer, according to Peterson’s retelling of the conversation. “How do you think he gets elected?”
The exchange sums up the question at the core of this closely watched race. Peterson may be a Democrat. But he’s pro-gun rights and pro-life, and a founding member of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition. “At one time there were a lot of people like me” in Congress, he says. “I’m the only pro-life Democrat left. I’m the only NRA A+ Democrat left.”
So far, his social and fiscal conservatism has helped him fend off Republican challengers as his largely rural district in Minnesota has gone deep red. Trump swept the district by 31 points four years ago, making this the most Republican House district in America still represented by a Democrat. Will enough Trump voters split their tickets this time around and send Peterson back to Washington? Republicans are betting no. They see 2020 as their moment to flip the seat.
Peterson has his most formidable competitor in 30 years in Michelle Fischbach, a former Minnesota lieutenant governor and the first woman president of the state senate, who’s been endorsed by Trump. She’s hoping that endorsement and her emphasis on low taxes, border security, law and order, and other conservative issues will help her overcome the challenge of going up against a veteran House Agriculture Committee member in