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Political comedy in the seventh district

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opinion Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

One of the better spectator sports during election season in Minnesota's 7th Congressional District is the spectacle of the Republicans' attempt to run against veteran Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. It's like watching the Timberwolves play basketball: You know before the tipoff who's going to lose.

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The comedy opened this week when a mouthpiece for the National Republican Congressional Committee tried to make hay of speculation that Peterson would not run for an 11th term. Apparently the only people who believed Peterson would sit this one out were political types who know little about the 7th District. GOP spokesman Tom Erickson blamed Peterson for the speculation, saying the congressman's "fundraising is stagnant ... and just last week he refused to commit to another campaign."

Well, that's evidence enough, right?

What a heap of hooey.

First, if Peterson never raised another dime, he still would have enough credibility and support in the district to win re-election in 2010. Second, his pattern has always been to wait until February or March of an election year to announce his intentions, which, since 1990, have never been in doubt. He runs.

The Republican committee's grasping at straws in the 7th is nothing new. For as long as voters can remember, Peterson has vanquished every Republican challenger by margins that define landslide.

Most of those candidates have been unsuccessful because they have had nothing to offer the district, other than boilerplate political rhetoric more suited to a party rally than a campaign in the sprawling, diverse 7th District.

Don't believe it? Quick, who ran against Peterson in 2006? In 2008? If you came up blank it's because Republicans have been unable to find candidates to fill in the blank.

Peterson has the pulse of his district. As a founder of the Blue Dog Democrats in the U.S. House, he's a maverick Democrat who has never been reluctant to tilt to the conservative side on issues from gun control and abortion to trade and environment.

As the Almanac of American Politics said, "Peterson's politics have been a smash hit with 7th District voters ..." The National Republican Congressional Committee apparently hasn't been paying attention the past 18 years. -- The Forum

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