Republicans are seeking to oust Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who is up for his first reelection after his narrow 2008 win.
Franken will be a tough candidate — he’s worked hard to ingratiate himself in the state, and his poll numbers look fairly solid. But Republicans hope with the right candidate they can topple the first-term senator.
Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) and John Kline (R-Minn.) are two early mentions for the race.
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.
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.).
heehan 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.
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.
Coleman and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) have also been mentioned as possible candidates, though a few state Republicans speculated that if Coleman does decide to make another run for office he might be more likely to run for governor, the office he first ran for in 1998.
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.
Two other Republican who are widely mentioned as a possible candidates are Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek (R) and former state Rep. Laura Brod (R), who’s on the University of Minnesota’s board of regents. Republican National Committeeman Jeff Johnson is also expected to make a statewide bid, though most think he’ll run for governor and not for Senate.