Stewart Mills reports fundraising haul in MN-8

Minnesota politicsStewart Mills, the Republican challenger in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, announced yesterday he raised $205,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013, bringing his totals from last year to about $450,000. That’s a respectable haul for a first time candidate, indicating that Mills will at least be able to afford a competitive challenge if circumstances allow.

Several months ago I had considered Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN8) a strong bet for reelection. I, like many other prognosticators, now see the race as being closer, though the incumbent still holds distinct advantages in the district’s electoral demographics.

Much will depend on national politics (tonight’s State of the Union address will highlight that scenario). But the quality of Mills’ campaign will also make a difference. Anecdotal reports on Mills are that he is working hard on retail GOP politics, while remaining very quiet on overarching policy proposals. The hope would appear to be for him to sneak up and surprise Nolan amid general voter dissatisfaction, the way former Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) beat former longtime Rep. Jim Oberstar (D) in 2010.

That’s obviously a proven strategy, but it remains to be seen whether it will work in 2014. Voters did a pretty sharp about-face on Cravaack in 2012, and might be a little more discerning in 2014 than the “throw ’em out” attitude of 2010. Hence, the importance of Mills’ ability to establish his credibility.

Meantime, we await Nolan’s fundraising totals, with the real possibility that he raised less than or not much more than his challenger. Like 2012, this race will be funded largely by outside partisan campaigns, based on how competitive people think it is.

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