Posted: 07/24/14 22:34, Edited: 07/24/14 22:35
by Dave Mindeman
There seems to be an almost quiet desperation to make Mike McFadden a serious challenger to Al Franken for the Minnesota Senate. The investment banker has no experience - has stumbled badly on the issues , but has money to burn and has shown a willingness to spend it liberally (pardon the expression).
He is a familiar mixture of Norm Coleman and Mitt Romney, but without the political expertise. What has given him the opportunity to gain some notoriety was the inexplicable endorsement at the GOP convention. Whether it was good strategy or incredible luck, McFadden has emerged with the endorsement and has only token opposition for the GOP primary from grossly underfunded challengers.
Because of all that, it looks like the political handicappers have given him a second look and recent "experts" like Stu Rothenberg and Larry Sabato have upgraded McFadden's chances against Franken.
Even Sabato made the change almost apologetically....
One final rating shift that will leave many shaking their heads is in Minnesota, where we're changing the rating from Likely Democratic to just Leans Democratic. But hear us out: While polling doesn't really support such a move, history suggests this race won't be a cakewalk for Sen. Al Franken (D).
In other words, no data - just a hunch.
The reason that Franken's race is still on the radar is that most political followers who haven't been familiar with Franken's Senate career cannot believe that the guy who won by 312 votes could be anything other than vulnerable. And normally that would be a pretty safe bet.
But Franken has assimilated into the Senate very well. He is respected by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He has eliminated the bawdy humor for which his entertainment career was famous....and replaced it with a dry sense of humor which he flashes only to make a political point.
Franken has been a prolific fundraiser and even with McFadden pouring his own money into the race, Franken continues to have the monetary edge. The junior MN Senator always seems to be one step ahead of McFadden on every front....organization, fundraising, commercials, and ground game.
In general, Franken's political strategy (and it is a good one) has not given McFadden a real opportunity to put the incumbent Senator on the defensive. McFadden's opportunistic endorsement gives him the ability to utilize what little the State GOP has to offer for ground help and not have to build it all himself, which I am sure he expected he would have to do. But Franken negates that opportunity with a superior organization of his own.
Another thing working in Franken's favor is that the Republican Senate Caucus has to concentrate on other races. Minnesota's seat is low on the priority list. The RSCC is having a fight in Georgia and Kentucky to hold onto incumbent seats and North Carolina and Arkansas are proving to be stubborn takeaways. Sending money to Minnesota may be a luxury they cannot afford. Meaning McFadden is probably on his own.
Al Franken's narrow win in 2008 has not been taken for granted by his campaign. They have prepared for battle and are looking for a somewhat better margin of victory this time around. The MN GOP has never quite gotten over that narrow and frustrating loss. They have been willing to give McFadden some leeway in conservative "principles" as long as he has shown a willingness to match Franken's bank account.
The GOP keeps looking for any semblance of silver linings in their quest to take back Norm Coleman's seat. But hard evidence of a McFadden upset is in short supply.
And Al Franken is taking nothing for granted.