Now that Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has said she won't run for re-election in Minnesota's 6th District, Democrats are looking for another target.
They may have found one in U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Republican who for nearly a decade has represented Minnesota's 2nd District, which includes much of the southern Twin Cities suburbs.
Democrats think Kline may be vulnerable because last year's round of redistricting removed some areas that typically had supported Republicans and added some areas where Democrats usually win elections.
In last fall's election -- the first for the newly configured district -- President Barack Obama won slightly more votes than Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Kline defeated his Democratic challenger, Mike Obermueller, by slightly more than 8 percentage points. Although it was a comfortable victory, it did not come close to matching Kline's nearly 27-point margin of victory in 2010, before redistricting.
"This is now a decidedly swing district," said Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota DFL Party. "This is one of those rare opportunities where you have a district on paper that is winnable."
Democrats have long criticized Kline for toeing the Republican Party line, and in the last campaign they highlighted his support for the Republican House budget plan that would have replaced Medicare with a voucher system for future retirees. They see increasing opportunity to go after Kline on education issues as Kline has chaired the House Education and the Workforce committee since 2010.
Last week, the House Majority PAC, whose mission is to elect Democrats, launched an Internet ad campaign against Kline for his stand on student loan interest rate. It contended that Kline seeks to pass a law that "could more than double the interest rate on college loans."
Kline declined an interview with MPR News. His spokesman accused Democrats of launching "petty attacks" and said Kline's plan to base student loan rates on market-based interest rates is similar to a plan in the president's latest proposed budget. He also said that while Kline's bill has a cap on how high the interest rates could go.
The president's plan does not have a cap on interest rates. Obama has also threatened to veto the House Republicans' plan.
The House Majority PAC spent $35.6 million in a bid to defeat congressional Republicans in the 2012 elections, including $1.5 million in Minnesota's 8th District, where it helped DFL candidate Rick Nolan defeat Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack.
"We are in a situation now where Michele Bachmann is not running again and John Kline is House Majority PAC's top target in the Gopher State," said Andy Stone, a spokesman for the House Majority PAC.
Obermueller a former state representative from Eagan, already is campaigning for a 2014 rematch. "We really do believe that there's a lot of value from running a second time and the momentum that you build in that sort of a setting," he said.
Obermueller also said he thinks there's a lot of value in having Bachmann out of the picture. "Michele Bachmann drew a lot of media attention," he said. "Because she drew attention from the media, John Kline was able to hide behind her a little bit and keep the focus off his record and off of the things that he was doing because you could always count on Michele Bachmann to be in the limelight. Well, that focus is shifting now."
Obermueller also expected that some of the energy and money that Democrats had focused on defeating Bachmann will be redirected toward the campaign against Kline.
But Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier said Kline will be tough to beat. Although Kline's margin of victory in the 2012 election was about 18 percentage points lower than 2010, Kline still received nearly 30,000 more votes than Obermueller last fall in what was a difficult election for Republicans nationwide.
"It's unlikely that 2014 will be as favorable an environment for Democrats as 2012 was," Schier said. "So it is quite challenge for the Democrats to defeat John Kline in that district."
In an interview in April, Kline talked about being targeted in 2014 and his plans to add to his already ample campaign war chest.
"I've got three-quarters of a million dollars cash on hand," he said then. "I've been out there pretty busy working towards that end. We're going to continue to do that. I have demonstrated that I can raise money and we'll stay at that and step it up."
According the most recent to Federal Election Commission records, Obermueller's campaign for Congress had just over $5,500 cash.