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I usually like reading Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. He’s a smart and dispassionate observer of the horse race.
In his latest roundup of the battle for the Senate, he comes to roughly the same conclusion everyone else is — that the Senate is very much winnable for the Republicans. But then he adds something more, something tantalizing, something, frankly, that is too delicious to hope for:
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).
Six years ago, Franken won by the barest of margins (312 votes) against incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) only after a lengthy recount process. Moreover, despite its long run of voting Democratic in presidential elections (it last went Republican in the 1972 Richard Nixon landslide), Minnesota is not actually that Democratic. After all, Coleman was elected in 2002 and nearly reelected in 2008. In fact, if we compare it to Michigan, a state with a Senate race we’re moving in the opposite direction, Minnesota has been, on average, 1.3 percentage points less Democratic in the two-party vote than Michigan in the last four presidential elections. Moreover, President Obama won Minnesota by 7.7 points in 2012; while this was a comfortable margin, it wasn’t at the level seen in states such as Michigan (9.5 points), New Mexico (10.1), or Oregon (12.1).
I can’t handle my emotions right now. I’m stuffing them away, somewhere deep inside my subconscious. I can’t allow myself to hope. Luckily, there are a lot of caveats:
Franken and his likely opponent, businessman Mike McFadden (R), are really just getting started, given Franken’s deliberately low profile and the fact that McFadden hasn’t even officially sewn up his party’s nomination. It’s true that the contestants in Michigan and New Hampshire haven’t received official party blessings either, but Peters versus Land and Shaheen versus Brown have been de facto head-to-head races for months. One thing that’s clear: Franken won’t be surprised, given that he’s already spent $10 million on his race so far this cycle.
Franken is still the favorite, given his gigantic war chest and the power of incumbency, but McFadden appears to be positioned to run a moderate-conservative campaign that could allow him to compete with Franken while not alienating his base.
Tell me I’m crazy. Tell me not to hope. Tell me, especially if you’re from Minnesota, what this means. Does McFadden have enough money? Can we send him some? And who is he, anyway? Is he a RINO like me? Is he hardcore? Is he sane? Is he a little nuts? (Not that I honestly care. I’m willing to forgive a viable opponent of Senator Al Franken a lot.)
Say whatever you want about the RNC, the Establishment, whatever happened in Mississippi. I’d like a little — no, a lot — of establishment muscle and money and sneaky moves in Minnesota.
I’m going to lie down now.