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Despite all evidence to the contrary, including historically suspect local media polling that indicated Al Franken would win by about 10 percentage points in his US Senate re-election bid … Al Franken won his re-election to the US Senate by 10 percentage points.
At 53%, for the first time a majority of breathing, sentient Minnesota adults said Al Franken is the one man who best represents our hopes, dreams, and interests in the upper chamber of the legislature of the most powerful country in the world. Behind Spam, the Vikings’ four Super Bowl losses, and Walter Mondale giving the tagline “Where’ the Beef?” new life as a national catchphrase, this may be the most embarrassing thing to ever come out of Minnesota.
In the past few months, some of our finest Ricochet pundits opined that although Franken may win, he’d never get a mandate from the voters: Minnesotans elected him to office, but they don’t love him … A l Franken will never be a landslide election victor.
53% isn’t exactly love or a landslide, but it’s definitely significant erosion. And this is in a Republican wave year that resulted in unexpected Republican gains across the country, including deep blue bastions like Maryland and Illinois. Over these past few election cycles, Republicans in Minnesota have developed a lonely, morbid feeling. Bumping into old friends at Minnesota GOP election night parties now has the same vibe as encountering the relatives you only see at funerals.
What’s the matter with Minnesota? Simply stated, it has a lot of Democrats and is getting more every day (by creating them and importing them). Even a candidate as inherently bad as Al Franken can take that natural advantage to a majority if he plays his cards right (that would be playing the cards close to the vest). As I wrote in the Franken Forecast back in September:
Franken … has generally kept a low profile while in office, in six years not leading any significant legislative initiatives and being uncharacteristically low key on all the hot button issues of the day. Even when campaigning for office, he’s very reserved. His strategy seems to be abandoning the personality he’s exhibited his entire adult life in favor or not actively giving people a reason to vote against him.
His adult life prior to politics was dedicated to pugnacious insult humor and provocations. But now he’s quiet, he smiles a lot, he does virtually no press interviews, and, when he has to, he films phony ads of himself walking around farms wearing flannel shirts and jeans and gesticulating knowingly while talking to guys wearing seed caps.
Oh, and he also votes in lockstep with a President whose policies are in wide disrepute even in Minnesota. But that’s not important, he seems so nice! Minnesota’s other Senator, Amy Klobuchar, rides a similarly extreme partisan voting record and a pleasant, mundane demeanor (not to mention a celebrity name) to a two-thirds majority in the state. The template works, so expect more of the same in years to come.
The other critical advantage Franken enjoyed was in campaign finance. The Democrats drowned this race with a firehose blast of money. Franken outraised and outspent his Republican opponent by a staggering ratio of nearly five-to-one, $29.5 million to $6.5 million. Where are those Koch Brothers and other rich Republicans when you need them?
People gave Al Franken nearly $30 million to run for the US Senate. To put that in perspective, that’s 30 times as much money as people paid Al Franken to see his movie, Stuart Saves His Family (gross=$912K). In other words, people are far more likely to pay Al Franken to not appear in any more movies than to buy a ticket to his performances. It’s a subtle and devastatingly effective campaign strategy: donate and vote for me, or I start production on Stuart Saves His Family II immediately!
Future Senator Pauly Shore, are you paying attention?