Midterm Watch: Senator Al Franken in Trouble?


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.  


There are 29 comments.

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  1. user_86050 Inactive

    If only we could get Obama and maybe Hillary to visit … gotta cost 5 or 6 points right there …

    • #1
  2. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas

    McFadden would be a shoo-in if he had a brief career as a professional wrestler.

    • #2
  3. user_86050 Inactive

    Where’s Lileks when we really need him? The Senate is in dire need of a segue!

    • #3
  4. Tuck Inactive

    Are you looking to cast Franken in your next project?

    • #4
  5. Fredösphere Member

    I’m thinkin’ what he’s thinkin’:


    • #5
  6. Howellis Inactive

    Why Franken could lose:

    He’s Not Good Enough, He’s Not Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Don’t Like Him!

    • #6
  7. Mallard Inactive

    Having grown up in & later escaping from Minnesota I’ll say this: NEVER underestimate the MN voters ability to go for a celebrity/fruitcake. The fact that Al has kept his yap shut & not said anything too far off the reservation will help him immensely. The friends & relatives I left behind mostly agree Al’s chances for re-election are good. I’m not happy about saying it, but there it is.

    • #7
  8. SMG Member

    Still living in MN, and I second Mallard.  Frankencandidate will probably have to screw up big-time to lose, unless it’s truly a nationwide “throw the bums out” election.

    • #8
  9. Stad Coolidge

    KC Mulville: Where’s Lileks when we really need him?

     Run James, run!

    • #9
  10. jpark Member

    Senator Franken is one of the 35 Democratic co-sponsors of S. 1696, the so-called Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013. It would, among other things, preempt any state measures that prohibit or restrict a woman from “obtaining an abortion prior to fetal viability based on her reasons or perceived reasons or that requires a woman to state her reasons before obtaining an abortion prior to fetal viability.” That would immunize the abortion of girls because they are girls or Down Syndrome children because they have Down Syndrome. What do the sponsors have against girls and Down Syndrome kids?

    • #10
  11. user_280840 Inactive

    You are all missing the value of Senator Al Franken.

    Whenever anyone is extolling the virtues of democracy, you can completely dismiss them with three words: Senator Al Franken.

    • #11
  12. cirby Inactive

    Just point out the thousand or so votes – by felons who couldn’t legally vote. And then the 177+ people who were convicted of vote fraud in that election. 

    Then finish it off with “and you know Franken’s vote was the one that made Obamacare possible, right?”

    • #12
  13. user_512412 Member

    Remember the last Franken election.  Unless the Rs have learned how to find boxes of ballots in trunks of cars, they are at a structural disadvantage.

    • #13
  14. nyconservative Member

    It is not hard to imagine Franken losing and not crazy to think about it.He is the type of person who loses in a wave election and we won’t know if this is a wave election until the day after election day.I haven’t seen a set up this good for the GOP in decades and my hope is the media continues to underplay their prospects until it is too late!

    • #14
  15. crogg Coolidge

    Long time Ricochet reader, first time poster.  

    Lifelong Minnesota resident, political observer, and RINO squish.

    Given the content of the post and comments thereto, I felt this was the time to break the seal on my silence.  I believe Larry Sabato’s analysis is correct and I share Rob’s reactions to it.  Senator Franken has run TV ads ad nauseam.  I am not sure he is getting his money’s worth.  The average Minnesotan pays no attention to this during the summer because they are outdoors enjoying the only snowless months of the year.  He is taking a page from Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) by playing small ball, keeping his nose clean, and hoping for the best.  His ads do not disclose that he is a supporter of the President’s policies or even that he is a Democrat!  In 2008, Franken won when the President was on the ballot and carried Minnesota, as did Klobuchar in 2012.  This is 2014, the President is not on the ballot and his approval rating is below 50% — in Minnesota!

    PS – Fredo, that is my favorite Far Side cartoon!

    • #15
  16. PsychLynne Inactive


    Long time Ricochet reader, first time poster.

    Lifelong Minnesota resident, political observer, and RINO squish.

    Welcome, Crogg!  and thanks for posting and sharing your view–even if it hadn’t been optimistic!

    • #16
  17. user_124695 Inactive

    Yeah, but a lotta people have died since the last election and they all vote Democrat.

    • #17
  18. user_11047 Inactive

    Fredösphere: I’m thinkin’ what he’s thinkin’:

     One of Larson’s best (IMHO)

    • #18
  19. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu

    Yes yes yes! Down with Franken! I have no political insights to add, but maybe I better get some. Truthfully I don’t pay much attention to local politics, it being mostly a downer, but it’d be great to see a little movement on the home front.

    • #19
  20. user_379896 Coolidge

    My favorite Far Side….. and boy do I wish now that we had formed that Ricochet PAC

    • #20
  21. otherdeanplace@yahoo.com Member

    It does seem like too much to hope for. Santa, if I can’t have a pony, can I please have this?

    • #21
  22. Eeyore Member

    If it’s close, the DFL will lie, cheat and steal as many found absentee ballots, uncounted voting machines, re-reported precinct totals, etc., as they did last time. And it’s not likely to be an (R) blowout. 

    So you can get up off the fainting couch and go back to work…

    • #22
  23. Pike Bishop Inactive
    Pike Bishop

    The Twelve Chairs Soundtrack : Hope For The Best Expect The Worst

    • #23
  24. user_1030767 Inactive

    For about a week I got sponsored Facebook ads from Franken telling me we need to amend the First Amendment.  As Ted Cruz  pointed out, it’s very troubling that a political comedian would support this effort.  Franken is high on my list of Dems I’d love to see go.  

    I still fondly remember watching Al Franken on SNL in the eighties :) .

    • #24
  25. user_989419 Inactive

    Never underestimate Jesse the ability of the average Minnesotan Ventura to vote in ways that defy reality.

    • #25
  26. user_385039 Inactive

    David Williamson:

    Yeah, but a lotta people have died since the last election and they all vote Democrat.

    And they will again if the Democrat Party and the Democrat Secretary of State have anything to say about it.

    • #26
  27. CuriousKevmo Member

    In any just society Stuart Smalley would be setting pins in a bowling alley.

    • #27
  28. Kozak Member

    Nothing would make me happier then seeing Al Franken, self confessed “international communist revolutionary” collecting unemployment.

    • #28
  29. user_644842 Member

    Another Minnesotan here (well, a transplant).   Wish it was so, but I don’t see it happening.  He’s kept a low profile and, as an incumbent, that is about all he has to do.   Nice commercials with him speaking with a soft voice and visiting nursing homes or child care centers will keep the masses calmed.   
    Minnesota has a large presence of medical device manufacturers, who were the targets of a nice little tax hike used to help fund Obamacare.    After shoving through that bill with every ounce of their strength, Klobuchar and Franken went through the motions of trying to get that tax reversed, knowing full well it wasn’t going to happen.   I don’t think it hurt Klobuchar in the least — she sailed through her re-election.  We can only hope that the Obamacare calculus has changed by a lot.
    One thing that might hurt Franken would be the view that he is too socially liberal, which might weaken his union-based Democratic stronghold  in the northern mining areas.  If he stays away from abortion and gay marriage and religious rights, he’ll do fine.

    • #29

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