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Ramstad To Retire

Minnesota Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad announced his retirement from the House today, creating another major problem for House Republicans and a golden Democratic pickup opportunity.

Ramstad is the seventh House Republican to choose against running for re-election in 2008. He joins Reps. Rick Renzi (Ariz.), Duncan Hunter (Calif.), Dennis Hastert (Ill.), Ray LaHood (Ill.), Chip Pickering (Miss.) and Deborah Pryce(Ohio) on the sidelines. Two Democrats -- Reps. Mark Udall (Colo.) and Tom Allen (Maine) -- are leaving their seats. Both are running for Senate.

Like the seats of Pryce and Renzi, Ramstad's 3rd district is almost certain to play host to a very competitive race in 2008. Ramstad's departure will further talk that Republicans are headed for an avalanche of retirements heading into next November.

In 1994, the last time control of the House flipped, 29 Democratic representatives headed for the exits -- 22 of those simply retired while the others ran for higher office. Just 12 Republicans retired from Congress. According to the latest edition of the Cook Political Report (subscriber only but you should be a subscriber, five Democratic Members are listed as potential retirements while 19 Republicans (not including Ramstad) are listed as potential Republican retirements.

As always when a new seat comes open, we offer our sketch of the district.

Geography:: The district takes in much of the suburbs surrounding Minneapolis-St. Paul and includes the Mall of America. It is overwhelmingly white (89 percent according to the 2000 Census) and white collar (73 percent).

Election Results: A Republican has represented this district for the past 37 years. Rep. Bill Frenzel (R) held it from 1970 to 1990. When Frenzel retired, Ramstad won and has never faced a serious fight for re-election; in fact, he has never won less than 65 percent of the vote. But, that unbroken line of Republican representation hides a very competitive seat. President Bush carried it with 51 percent in 2004 and 50 percent four years earlier but President Clinton also caried it twice with 47 percent in 1996 and 39 percent in 1992. (Ross Perot won 24 percent in the district.)

Candidates: Ramstad's retirement was unexpected so no Republican names immediately surfaced. Among those mentioned on the Democratic side include attorney Andy Luger, who ran for Hennepin County Attorney in 2006, state Sen. Terri Bonoff and state Rep. Denise Dittrich . Given that Ramstad had represented the district for the past 17 years, there are almost certainly a number of aspiring pols who have been waiting for an opportunity like this -- meaning that both sides are likely to have competitive primaries.

Outlook: While New Hampshire drew most of the national attention in the last election after ousting both of its Republican House Members, Minnesota voters also showed they were ready for change. The race to replace Sen. Mark Dayton (D) was expected to be among the most competitive in the country but turned into a blowout for Democrat Amy Klobuchar as Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) found his support for President Bush and the war in Iraq hung around his neck. And, in southern Minnesota, Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R) was defeated by teacher Tim Walz (D) who ran on a strong anti-war message. This cycle Sen. Norm Coleman (R) is a major Democratic target and the 3rd district is almost certain to be among the top 20 (or so) races in the country. Democrats believe that suburban districts are moving in their favor thanks to Bush and the war; if they're right, this is the sort of district they should be able to win.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 17, 2007; 4:29 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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