Sunday, August 24, 2008

Minnesota U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

Minnesota U.S. Senate

August 24, 2008
72 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Republican

One of the ironies of this particular U.S. Senate seat is that in a state like Minnesota, which does not have a significant Jewish population, it has been held by a Jewish Senator, practically uninterrupted, for 30 years. In fact, the last several elections for this seat have seen both major parties nominate Jewish-Americans to contest it and this year appears to be no exception.

Incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman and his likely Democrat opponent Al Franken are both children of the '60's and both were certainly quite liberal at the time. Coleman grew up in New York City while Franken was raised in Minnesota. Eventually, Coleman would relocate to the Land of 10,000 Lakes where he was to become the conservative Democrat Mayor of St. Paul who would eventually join the GOP in the 1990s. In 2002, after incumbent Senator Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash in the midst of a very close reelection race against Coleman, the Republican was a somewhat surprise winner on Election Day over the DFL's replacement candidate, former Vice President Walter Mondale. By contrast, Franken would go the opposite direction of Coleman and move from Minnesota to New York City where he made a name for himself on Saturday Night Live and as a humorist and eventual liberal radio talk show host. He moved back home to Minnesota in order to persue this Senate seat.

Minnesota is a state with many liberals and a fairly conservative Senator, such as Coleman, always has to work hard to keep hopes of another term alive. For various reasons, several prominent Democrats had declined to enter the race against him, while Franken worked hard to receive the party endorsement for some time. Many polls have shown a very competitive race between the two men, but a lot of Democrats remain very uneasy about Franken's electability, due to his reputation as being nothing more than a comedian, and some very controversial things he said and wrote about in that capacity, in addition to a scandal involving Franken not having paid workers' compensation associates for employees. For a while, it looked like the DFL would go to some lengths to try to avoid a Franken candidacy, but his support among liberal grassroots activists has seemed to be enough to push back any such effort.

While it is now a very uphill battle, some Democrats are still hoping that the DFL endorsed Franken might be defeated in a primary. He is though expected to easily outpace a field which includes attorney Priscilla Lord-Faris.

Third party and independent candidates always play a larger part in Minnesota politics than in most other states. For several weeks, specualtion swirled that professional wrestler turned Governor Jesse Ventura would make an independent bid for the Senate, mindful of how he won a three way race for Governor in 1998, which included Coleman as an opponent. Ventura clearly reveled in the speculation but at the filing deadline declined to jump in the race. Instead, a close Ventura associate, Dean Barkley threw his hat into the ring as a candidate of the Independence Party. In fact, Barkley also briefly held the seat in Washington D.C., having been appointed by Ventura to fill it upon the death of Wellstone and before Coleman would be sworn in. While Barkley may not have the name recongition or novelty factor of Ventura, he still should capture his fair share of votes. He will draw somewhat from both Coleman and Franken, but considering his political positioning and the fact that he is also challenging the incumbent, his presence in the race is likely to be a net positive for the GOP incumbent.

There have been some widly conflicting polls on this race, and the Barkley factor may not now being taken into too much account in them. The most recent poll, conducted by a public radio station, even has Franken ahead by a single point. In July, a Survey USA poll put Coleman's lead at just a point, while at the same time, Rasmussen was saying the Republican was ahead by 13 points. Probably closer to being accurate, is the newest Survey USA poll which has Coleman ahead by about 7 points.

The state is likely to be heavily contested on the Presidential level, especially if Governor Tim Pawlenty joins John McCain's GOP ticket, but Democrats typically have had more success on the federal level and that means Coleman is in for a tough race. However, he is fortunate that his opponent is as controversial and divisive as Franken. At least one labor union has even come out in favor of Coleman in the past week and he may be able to garner the votes of some in the DFL who just cannot stomach Franken. The presence of Barkley splitting the anti-Coleman vote should also contribute to Coleman winning a second term by a margin of more than five, but perhaps less than 10 points.

Coleman campaign link:

2008 U.S. Senate races predicted: 7 D, 9 R
Predicted Senate balance of power thus far: 46 D, 35 R


At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know about another candidate, I'm Jack Uldrich and I'm also running for U.S. Senate in Minnesota as an Independent. For more information check out my commercials at:


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