MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You may think it is a little early to start talking about the 2014 elections but this weekend there was a major development in the Minnesota Senate race.
Sen. Julianne Ortman, from Chanhassen, announced she will be running for the Republican nomination to unseat Sen. Al Franken.
There are two other Republicans already in the race — businessman Mike McFadden and State Rep. Jim Abeler.
Franken ended up winning the disputed 2008 U.S. Senate race by a margin of 312 votes. Many expected top Republicans would line up to take him on in 2014. But Republican heavyweights like former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Congressmen Erik Paulsen and John Kline, as well as the man Franken barely beat, Sen. Norm Coleman have all decided not to run.
Meanwhile Franken’s statewide approval raising has risen steadily to 55 percent and he has a comfortable cushion of $3 million in his re-election bank account.
Right now, he is not on any of the national lists of incumbents viewed as vulnerable for defeat. So what happened? Why is Franken, at this point at least, in a much stronger position than many expected?
Political Analyst Larry Jacobs appeared on WCCO Sunday Morning.
“Al Franken has done a makeover,” he said. “He has got a whole new script and a whole new personality, he avoids the national media, very little of the comedic talent, he advertised the fact that President Obama refers to him as the second funniest senator from Minnesota — giving the nod to Sen. Klobuchar. … The thing I am noticing is that it seems like every press release that is coming out of the Franken office has the word bi-partisan in it and I think he is setting himself up as running a campaign as working for Minnesota.”
But the 2014 election is still a long way away — plenty of time for any of the Republicans to surge. Rep. Abeler is considered a moderate who was willing to defy party leaders by supporting a 2008 transportation tax.
Sen. Ortman is the best known of the challengers and is a former Deputy Majority Leader of the State Senate. And while businessman Mike McFadden is the least well-known, he has already picked up some very big endorsements — former Republican U.S. senators Norm Coleman and Rod Grams have endorsed him and are honorary chairs of his campaign.
You can watch WCCO Sunday Morning with Esme Murphy and Matt Brickman every Sunday at 6 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.