WASHINGTON - The campaign arm of U.S. House Republicans will announce Tuesday that first-term U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack has joined the party's "Patriot Program" for incumbents facing tough re-elections.
The program, sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee, gives extra fundraising and campaign resources to members in highly competitive districts. Later this year, program members will have a special fundraiser of their own and will share the proceeds from the event. Membership in the Patriot Program is also seen as the party's seal of approval for Republican donors who might not otherwise be inclined to donate to the member.
The most recent quarterly fundraising figures released last week suggest that Cravaack is likely to face a tough campaign this fall. One of his three DFL challengers, Tarryl Clark, raised $320,000 compared to Cravaack's $246,000. Former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan raised nearly $77,000 and Jeff Anderson brought in $38,000.
What's most surprising about the announcement is that it comes in April of 2012 and not last year. Most political observers in Minnesota and Washington, DC have expected Cravaack to face a tough re-election challenge in the traditionally Democratic-leaning 8th District ever since he unseated longtime DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar in 2010.
Cravaack broke with the House GOP leadership last summer and voted against the agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling. At the time, Cravaack sent out a fundraising email to supporters telling them he was "on my own" after defying "the Republican establishment."
Democrats have a similar program, called Frontline Democrats. 1st District DFL Rep. Tim Walz belongs to that program.