5:24 PM | Posted in ,
An article at The Hill has the blogosphere all abuzz about the congressional district of my birth and its representative, Collin Peterson (DFL). It appears as though Peterson is being considered for the Agriculture Secretary spot in the Obama Adminsitration.

According to reports, Obama is considering Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) for the USDA post. His transition team declined to comment on Cabinet speculation.

Both members have agriculture experience, but they also come from GOP-leaning districts.

Peterson’s rural western Minnesota district has trended red in recent years and it went for President Bush in both the 2000 and 2004 elections. It took Peterson four attempts before he was finally elected in 1990. With a large wheat-farming industry in his district, he moved quickly up the ladder of the House Agriculture Committee and became its chairman in the Democratic takeover.

Michael Brodkorb took time out of his Norm Coleman lovefest to highlight the potential for a Republican pick up in Minnesota and the Dailykos is buying into the argument that this seat is automatically a Republican favored district. However, I would caution people about automatically assuming anything about the district.

Anecdotally, after living in this district for the vast majority of my life I would say that this area is one of the least ideological districts in Minnesota. The culture of this area does not lend well to ideology as politics is generally considered a topic that is not discussed in polite conversation. As I have said before, I cannot recall growing up seeing or hearing about politics. While people have their opinions, they are kept to themselves and they are practical in nature.

This evidence is borne out by the analysis of Jeff Rosenberg at Twin Cities Daily Liberal. At the end of July he did a voting analysis of the district and found that the district contains a large percentage of voters in the district that are ticket splitters:

However, nothing is guaranteed in the 7th, where voters are far more likely to split their tickets than the typical Minnesotan. Volatility is a measure of variation across races, and precincts with high volatility are those that see a lot of ticket-splitters.

The 7th District covers most of the western half of the state down to Marshall, Minnesota.

Maps courtesy of the Star Tribune website.

In 2004, the district went heavily for George W. Bush which gives it the appearance of a heavily Republican district.

It is important to remember though that the district also went to Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. If you take a look at the results of the 2008 election you will find that Barack Obama did remarkably well in the district.

What does that mean for the probability of a win in the 7th District? First, neither candidate can be an ideologue. If the Republican Party or the Democratic Party believe they can bring in an ideologue and win the district they will find themselves sadly mistaken. Second, that candidate must be a friend to the agriculture community. Peterson figured this out and has thrived to the point that he won this past election with a wider margin than any other federal candidate in Minnesota.

So, if Democrats continue with their plan to find a candidate that fits the district they stand an excellent chance of retaining the district. That candidate should be at the very least socially moderate and should quickly prove himself or herself as a defender of farmers in the area.