As noted here the other day, it appears that Jim Oberstar, the 18-term Democrat who usually wins Minnesota's 8th District with more than 65% of the vote, is facing a serious challenge from Chip Cravaack, a former Navy pilot and commercial pilot for Northwest Airlines. An internal poll conducted by Public Opinions Strategies for Cravaack showed him trailing Oberstar just 42% to 45%. The AP's Martiga Lohn shares this interesting anecdote in her write-up of the race:

“I’ve walked picket lines, I’ve been on strike, I’ve been laid off for two years, I’ve had my pay cut in half, pension frozen,” Cravaack said in an interview.

There are some signs that the union support Oberstar has always counted on could be slipping a little.

Steve Biondich, a 29-year-old maintenance mechanic at the ArcelorMittal Minorca Mine near Aurora, said the United Steelworkers local usually endorses Oberstar as a routine matter. It did again this year, but the August vote was closer than expected after Cravaack visited the mine.

“That was shocking in itself,” Biondich said.

Local 6115 President Ray Pierce downplayed the tally, saying some of Oberstar’s supporters weren’t paying attention.

Read the whole thing here. Meanwhile, via Powerline, the Duluth News Tribune reports that for the second time, an event with the candidates had to be moved to a larger forum to accommodate a growing crowd:

For the second time, a candidate forum featuring 8th Congressional District stronghold Jim Oberstar and Republican challenger Chip Cravaack has had to be rescheduled to accommodate a rapidly growing crowd.

The Oct. 19 event, sponsored by the News Tribune and the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled now for 8 a.m. at the auditorium at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

It originally was scheduled in the Playground Theater at Superior Street and Lake Avenue, a theater with fewer than 100 seats. Within a day, however, more than 100 people had called in to RSVP and a decision was made to move to the Duluth Playhouse, at the Depot, which hosted Northeastern Minnesota’s only gubernatorial debate last month. By late last week, more than 100 people and counting were on a waiting list to attend at the 270-seat theater. So the decision was made today to book the DECC Auditorium. Its capacity of 2,318 should prove more than adequate.

That much interest in a debate at 8a.m. on a Tuesday morning in a rural district is pretty surprising. And it's doubtful the interest is being driven by energized Democrats.

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