By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Political groups are on track to shatter a record for the most dollars spent by candidates hoping to win over voters in the Gopher State.

Two years ago, in the 2016 election, spending topped $47 million. This year, it appears we’ll easily blow past that number. So what’s driving the cash flow?

This ad blitz you currently see on TV and hear on the radio is only going to pick up. Normally political ads are targeted at statewide races, but this year, many of the ads you are seeing are targeted at four Minnesota congressional districts.

It’s a highly unusual situation that has the eyes of the nation on Minnesota voters.

Some of the more prominent ads are centered around Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District, where Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen is facing a stiff challenge from Democratic businessman Dean Phillips.

That district includes the western suburbs of Minneapolis.

“What happens in Minnesota at the Congressional level, especially, could affect who has control of Congress,” professor David Schultz said.

The nationally-known Cook Political Report says four of Minnesota’s eight Congressional seats — the 1st in southeastern Minnesota, the 2nd in the suburbs and rural areas south of St. Paul, and both the 3rd and the 8th in Northeastern Minnesota — are up for grabs.

“The gateway for controlling the US House of Representatives goes through who wins these four competitive races in Minnesota,” Schultz said.

Of the four tossup seats, only the 3rd — the race between Paulsen and Phillips — is entirely based in the Twin Cities media market, thus the saturation on local stations, and thus making our area one of the top political markets for spending nationwide.

“I would suspect we will see most of this continuing unless … unless it becomes clear that some of these races no longer look competitive or winnable,” Schultz said.

Right now, Republicans hold a 23-seat majority in the U.S. House and a one-seat majority in the U.S. Senate, making Minnesota’s vote critical for both parties.

Esme Murphy