ST. PAUL, Minn. -- National Republican groups are pouring nearly $1 million into advertisements for the 8th Congressional District race in this month alone — the latest and largest sign that the northeastern Minnesota district will be a big-dollar battleground this fall.
The National Republican Campaign Committee, House Republicans' main campaign arm, reserved $960,000 in airtime at Twin Cities TV stations for ads to bash Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan or prop up GOP challenger Stewart Mills, according to public filings.
More than 200 30-second spots will start their two-week run next week on an ABC affiliate alone. An NRCC spokesman confirmed the ads will focus solely on the race in the sprawling 8th District, which also includes Duluth's media market.
With the district flipping between parties since veteran Rep. Jim Oberstar's shocking defeat in 2010, Nolan has been pegged as one of the most vulnerable incumbents come November as House Republicans try to shore up their majority.
Outside groups spent millions there in 2012, when Nolan made Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack a one-term congressman and resumed his own political career after 30 years away from Congress.
Combined with the latest ads, the race between Nolan and Mills has seen more than $2 million come from outside groups, according to Federal Election Commission records.
A Democratic stronghold for decades, the district is one of the few competitive ones this election season. Republicans have also targeted Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson in northwestern Minnesota, but spending there hasn't matched the fervor in Nolan's re-election bid.
The conservative-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce backed Mills early with $500,000 in ads playing up his business background from his family's company, Mills Fleet Farm.
Democratic campaign groups, including the House Majority PAC that's seeking to regain control of the chamber for Democrats, have spent more than $800,000 on the race, mostly trying to brand Mills as out of touch by using video from a campaign speech in which Mills says it's "personally offensive" to be portrayed as not paying his fair share of taxes. Mills' campaign says those comments were unfairly spliced together.
His campaign referred a request for comment to the NRCC, which could not elaborate further on the ads. Nolan's campaign did not immediately respond to a request.