MOORHEAD — The first publicly released poll on what is expected to be a hotly contested race in Minnesota's 7th Congressional District has Republican Michelle Fischbach leading incumbent Democrat Collin Peterson by 10 points.
The poll, conducted by the Republican-leaning Tarrance Group, has Fischbach up 52 percent to 42 percent. The survey, done internally for the Fischbach campaign by the GOP's Congressional Leadership Fund SuperPAC, was first reported by the National Journal.
Tarrance Group is given a "B/C" grade for accuracy by the online political pollster observer 538. The poll was clearly released as a campaign and fundraising tactic.
Still, it gives the first glimpse into what will be a closely watched contest by national media.
Even factoring in margin for error, the poll illustrates the difficult path Peterson has in being re-elected for an 11th term. Since winning in a landslide in 2010, his margin of victory has narrowed each election as his sprawling, rural district that covers the western part of the state has trended sharply toward Republicans and President Donald Trump. He beat Dave Hughes by four percentage points in 2018.
Trump won the district by 31 points in 2016.
National analysts have deemed the race a tossup, but Minnesota DFL insiders have increasingly said privately they are concerned about Peterson's chances.
Fischbach, from Paynesville, won her GOP primary Tuesday handily. The Associated Press reported that with 82% of precincts reporting in the district, Fischbach picked up 59% of the vote, while her closest competitors Dave Hughes and Noel Collis posted 22% of the vote and 14.6% of the vote.
Fischbach is extremely conservative and heavily involved in the anti-abortion movement. Both her husband and mother-in-law lead anti-abortion organizations in the state. She was a state legislator and lieutenant governor before running for Congress. She has Trump's backing and was viewed by national Republicans as having the best chance to defeat Peterson, long a target by Congressional GOPers.
The 76-year-old Peterson is Minnesota's longest-serving Congressman and its most powerful as chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. He is one of the last remaining "Blue Dog" Democrats in Congress, with a moderate-to-conservative bent who opposes abortion and strongly supports the Second Amendment.
Peterson has said that he is the only Democrat who could win the 7th District and once he no longer holds the seat, Democrats will never win it again.