In Minnesota, the Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, is struggling to find the balance between not endorsing Trump and not outright disavowing him. It’s proving a tough line to straddle:
Fresh from a political convention where Republicans emerged in lockstep support of Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee, one notable Minnesotan is struggling to fall into line — U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen.
The four-term congressman from Eden Prairie has spent the past week talking about trade deals and invasive species in Minnesota lakes, but he has not been willing to talk publicly about the real estate mogul and reality television star locked in a fierce battle with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Trump is going to have to earn Erik’s vote,” said Paulsen campaign manager, John-Paul Yates. “He hasn’t done it yet.”
Paulsen’s failure to embrace Trump comes after party activists have hammered former rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, for not endorsing the nominee, which critics say threatens party unity. But Paulsen suddenly finds himself battling for political survival in a suburban congressional district filled with affluent, educated residents, the kind least likely to support Trump.
The turmoil in the GOP, from the top to the bottom, appears to be hurting Paulsen’s chances.
The Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter covering races across the country, recently announced that Paulsen’s district is no longer a safe Republican seat.
Paulsen’s district spans the north and western suburbs of Minneapolis, an area that is generally affluent and has the highest rate of voters holding a bachelor’s degree or higher — nearly half — among Minnesota’s eight districts. Voters in the district have sent a Republican to Congress every election dating to the 1960s.
Like other Republican leaders turned off by Trump, Paulsen skipped the GOP national convention.
Lately, he has criticized Trump for derogatory remarks about a federal judge of Mexican descent, crude comments about women, and for once saying that women who receive an abortion should face “some form of punishment.”
Trump’s unpopularity here paved the way for Paulsen’s most formidable opponent yet, state Sen. Terri Bonoff, a business-friendly DFLer from Minnetonka. She’s vigorously pushing to link Paulsen to Trump’s controversial statements, as well as draw attention to a national party platform that takes a hard line against same-sex marriage and ends taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.
Not that comment sections are a reliable indicator of anything, but at least some of Paulsen’s constituents are vocally antagonistic toward him. Many of the opinions expressed in the comments section of the Star Tribune article linked above demonstrate a feeling of disappointment in Paulsen’s spinelessness and his commitment to toeing the party line.
One commenter writes:
I’m a long time moderate GOP, kept voting that way while Jim Ramstad held the seat. Paulsen is a shell of that. He tries lamely to maintain the moderate image, but as has been pointed out below, he’s a total party line voter. Ramstad was pro choice, pro stem cell research; a live and let live social issues guy. Paulsen is either total conservative bobo, or doesn’t say anything. I can no longer be a loyal gop voter for congress. Guess I’m a R.I.N.O. But this year has made me re-think everything. Republicans used to actually believe scientific research. Not anymore. It’s embarrassing, and frustrating to try to stay in the party. So for Prez it’ll either by Clinton, or Gary Johnson. For 3rd Distr. Bonoff. I can’t sit by any longer and watch Paulsen sidle up to the Cruz’s of the world, and Chanhassen’s tea party leader Cindy Pugh, and the coat-tailers of Michele Bachmann. Just can’t do it. The GOP has totally lost its way, and Paulsen, by default has contributed to it, by doing nothing to save any form of the moderate wing.
The problem with Paulsen is not whether he directly endorses Trump. The problem is that his record in congress is just being a blindly loyal vote for the agenda of the GOP leadership. He does whatever Paul Ryan wants him to. And Paul Ryan HAS endorsed Trump.
And yet another writes:
Paulson’s [sic] tip-toeing around support for his party’s candidate has lost this republican’s vote. I’ll vote for Bonoff instead. It will be my first vote for a democrat in 30 years, but Paulson [sic] has disqualified himself by skipping out on the convention and not supporting Trump.
As elected officials avoid taking a stance in this polarizing election, voters are watching. Noncommittal knuckleheads like Paulsen might pay dearly for refusing to pick a side.
Interested in helping Bonoff oust Paulsen? Check out her website and sign up to donate and volunteer. I’m in no way affiliated with Bonoff or her campaign, but I really want to see Paulsen and others opposed to progress out of office.