Minnesota 2nd District
Drive south from the Twin Cities and one encounters big-box-store parking lots and new housing developments inhabited by youngish families working in managerial, business and technical careers. Many come from elsewhere, attracted by Minnesota’s strong economy and pleasant living, and tolerant of its cold winters. They have turned places such as Eagan, Lakeville, Apple Valley, Mendota Heights and Burnsville in Dakota County into fast-growing “mall” suburbs. More upscale are the suburbs of Scott and Carver counties; Scott County grew by an impressive 44% from 2000 to 2008. In recent years, these suburban areas have begun to see an influx of lower-income residents, attracted by the same good schools and low crime rates that attracted the earlier population. Drive farther south on Interstate 35—a little farther every year—and suddenly one is surrounded by farm country. There are also modest-sized towns such as Northfield, the idyllic home of Carleton College and its late professor-turned-liberal senator, Paul Wellstone. Northfield is 40 miles from Minneapolis and St. Paul, and some people there commute to the Twin Cities core on I-35.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
These ’burbs and hamlets make up the 2nd Congressional District of Minnesota. Dakota County, just south of St. Paul, casts nearly half the votes in the district and historically was marginally Democratic, while the other counties were fairly heavily Republican. But in 1998, this was Jesse Ventura country. In that three-way race, he carried all of the district’s counties, with a sharply increased turnout. As the suburbs have continued growing, Ventura country has become more Republican. George W. Bush narrowly carried Dakota County in 2000 and 2004, and it produced big margins for Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2002. But in 2006, Democrat Amy Klobuchar showed that Democrats can still compete in Dakota County, capturing 56% there. In 2008, Dakota was split: Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama won the county 52%-46%, while Coleman was again successful, 46%-38%. The only remaining Democratic-Farmer-Labor strongholds here are Rice County, home of Northfield, and Washington County. Republican presidential candidate John McCain won the district overall, 49.8%-48.3%.