Monday, November 19, 2012

Which Fringe Lunatic Will The GOP Put Up Against Al Franken In 2014?


In 2008, the last Senate race decided was Minnesota's dead heat between eventual winner Al Franken and incumbent loser Norm Coleman. Franken, who spent $21,066,834, wound up with 1,212,431 votes to Coleman's 1,212,406 votes-- that close. And Coleman spent $21,821,755. Outside groups, who weren't as prevalent in 2008 as they've been since, spent $11,236,218 helping Franken and 7,921,474 helping Coleman. As of the FEC filing deadline on September 30, 2012, Franken had just over a million dollars in his campaign account. This 2012 cycle his leadership PAC, Midwest Values, brought in $1,469,518 and spent all but $214,710 of it helping elect Democrats running for the Senate and on Minnesota Democrats and on the Minnesota Democratic Party. Generous contributions guarantee that next year he'll get help from Elizabeth Warren (MA), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Sherrod Brown (OH), Martin Heinrich (NM), Mazie Hirono (HI), Claire McCaskill (MO), Chris Murphy (CT), Jon Tester (MT), Bob Casey (PA), Tim Kaine (VA), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Dianne Feinstein (CA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)-- as well as from homestaters Keither Ellison, Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan and Tim Walz.

His very close call in 2008 automatically puts him at the top of the Republicans' target list. In 2014 outside cash will flood Minnesota to try to defeat Franken. According to ProgressivePunch's crucial vote scoring, Franken's 96.17 is the third most progressive score in the entire Senate-- and just fractionally below Jack Reed (96.20) and Sherrod Brown (96.19). He has a fractionally better score than progressive champions Bernie Sanders, Barbara Boxer and Jeff Merkley.

A best case scenario for Franken-- and a worse case scenario for the Republicans-- would be if Michele Bachmann jumps in. She won-- albeit barely-- reelection, 180,131 (51%) to 175,923 (49%) against Jim Graves. As of the October 17 filing deadline Bachmann had spent $19,290,861 and Graves had spent $1,521,796. Although Steve Israel lured right-wing money into the district by noisily putting Graves on the DCCC's Red-to-Blue list, Graves is too independent-minded and progressive for a corporate whore like Israel. He refused to allow the DCCC or the Majority PAC to lift a finger for him and guaranteed Bachmann would win her seat again.

Bachann's shady Michele PAC raised $1,233,385 but spent almost nothing on helping any other Republicans-- $10,000 to Chip Cravaack's losing campaign, $2,000 to Denny Rehberg's losing Senate campaign in Montana, $1,000 to Sam Rohrer's losing Senate campaign in Pennsylvania and $1,000 to Tom Latham in Iowa. She has just under $3,000,000 in her campaign accounts. But she's intensely disliked by Minnesota voters outside of the fringe elements of the base. According to Peter Schroeder in The Hill last week, "Multiple Republicans warned that a Bachmann campaign could be disastrous for them, since she’s popular with the base but not well liked statewide. The former presidential candidate and Tea Party favorite barely won reelection this year in the state’s most Republican district, and an October poll from the Democratic Public Policy Polling showed her favorability rating statewide at just 33 percent, with 55 holding unfavorable views of her."

Obama just won the state 1,547,668 (53%) to 1,321,575 (45%) and Amy Klobuchar was reelected to the Senate 1,856,196 (65%) to 868,977 (31%) winning every county in the state with the exception of two tiny-- and nutty-- right-wing bastions on the South Dakota border, Rock and Pipestone, where she lost by a few hundred votes. And this PPP survey taken about a month ago augers well for Franken:

Easier to read if you click the image
No Republican wants to get into a primary race with the deep pockets Bachmann commands. She may be insane and hated and derided by normal people by the brainwashed zombies who listen to Hate Talk Radio and watch Fox love her-- and they pretty much control the Republican Party. The state GOP would much prefer former Governor Pawlenty, who says he doesn't want to run, but they're encouraging John Kline and Erik Paulsen, both hard right congressmen to consider making a run against Franken.
Paulsen had $725,000 in the bank for a possible run as of mid-October, while Franken had $1.1 million. Kline, who faced his first competitive reelection campaign in years, had just $114,000 as of mid-October, and may have spent some of that in the final weeks of the campaign.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is up for reelection the same year, giving up-and-coming Minnesota Republicans two possibilities for a statewide run.

Kline said that regardless of his decision on a Franken-challenge, the Minnesota GOP would find a strong candidate.

"There's no question that the Republicans in Minnesota are going to work to field a strong candidate to run for that Senate seat. We see there's an opportunity there,” he said.

Franken could prove to be tough to beat, however. The former Saturday Night Live star has assiduously worked to establish himself as a workhorse rather than a show horse in the Senate since his narrow recount victory over Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.).

Franken has refused most interview requests from national media outlets and publicly tamped down his funny side while focusing on constituent services. Most recent polls show him in a fairly strong position for reelection in the Democratic-leaning state, with an approval rating around 50 percent.

“Sen. Franken loves his job representing Minnesota in the U.S. Senate, and looks forward to making his case to his constituents to serve them for another 6 years,” Franken spokesman Ed Shelleby told The Hill.

Minnesota Republicans acknowledge he’ll be difficult to defeat.

“He’s done a good job over the past four years of keeping his head down and not being the center of attention. That will pose some problems for us,” said Cullen Sheehan, a longtime Minnesota GOP operative who ran Coleman’s 2008 Senate campaign.

Sheehan said that while Franken has improved his image in the state since his first campaign and incumbents are tougher to beat, Franken benefitted from a Democratic wave election, helped by high turnout driven by President Obama’s first campaign and antipathy in the state towards President George W. Bush.

“It's never easy to beat an incumbent but… all the things you'd want as a statewide candidate are on your side that weren't in 2008,” Sheehan said. “There's going to be a lot of excitement and enthusiasm on our side and I think a lot of people will line up to take him on, but it's not going to be an easy election.”

Another factor: Minnesota’s state Republican Party, while in better shape than it was a year ago, remains in disarray. The party still has a large level of debt, though it’s slowly paying it off, and Ron Paul backers hijacked the party’s conventions last spring and nominated one of their own over the establishment’s preferred candidate to challenge Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). That candidate, state Sen. Kurt Bills (R), won just 31 percent of the vote.

Republicans are considering revisions to their nomination process, changing the tradition of the state party choosing its nominees at a convention to having an open primary.

If you're in the mood, Blue America has already started a Senate 2014 page and, of course, Al Franken is on it. 

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