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Another Minnesota Miracle?

A Republican neophyte takes on Al Franken.

Aug 4, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 44 • By BARRY CASSELMAN
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Polls show that Klobuchar is the most popular statewide Minnesota elected official; DFL governor Mark Dayton runs second and Franken third. While maintaining their leads over any Republican opponents, both Dayton and Franken are now under 50 percent support in most polls. 

In spite of his surprising success at the GOP convention, and his ability to match Franken in fundraising, McFadden remains an underdog. He is largely unknown to most voters and must face the formidable DFL get-out-the-vote operation, one of the best in the nation. Rudy Boschwitz argues, however, that McFadden “is a fast learner and incredibly hard worker.” He points out that McFadden has “already campaigned in all of Minnesota’s 87 counties.” Although he has done well in early fundraising, McFadden almost certainly will have to at least partially self-fund to remain competitive. The Franken campaign will no doubt try to “Mitt Romney” McFadden as a rich banker, but McFadden’s humble origins and Franken’s own multimillionaire status might make this approach backfire. McFadden argues that his lack of political experience, but wealth of business experience, makes him the kind of “outsider” who can have an impact in the nation’s capital. 

With first-time GOP candidate Stewart Mills mounting a serious challenge to DFL incumbent Rep. Rick Nolan in the state’s northeastern 8th Congressional District, and the likelihood of GOP gains in, even possible renewed control of, the state house of representatives, 2014 is taking shape as a potentially good year for Minnesota Republicans, although perhaps not as good as 1978. President Obama’s popularity (he carried the state twice) has plummeted thanks in large part to Obamacare. Minnesota’s high taxes (raised even higher by the Dayton administration) are causing many affluent individuals, small businesses, and corporations to leave the state. A recent incipient economic recovery in the largest cities has not reached the rest of the state.

Franken would likely be reelected if the vote were held now. He has solid support from the DFL establishment, and on paper has a formidable get-out-the-vote apparatus. On the other hand, his transition from comedian to political insider means he must defend some unpopular votes. As Norm Coleman puts it, “Franken is an integral part of the dysfunction and mess in Washington. Al is now the problem; Mike can offer himself as the solution.” 

Mike McFadden pulled off one small miracle at the GOP convention. If he can pull off the bigger one of winning back one of the state’s Senate seats in November, he might help change control of the U.S. Senate back to the Republicans this fall. 

Barry Casselman has reported on national politics since 1972. His Prairie Editor website is at barrycasselman.com. 

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