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Paulsen/Kline possible 2014 Franken challengers?

by Dan Burns on November 19, 2012 · 8 comments

There is an interesting article in The Hill, regarding the 2014 race in which Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) will be defending his seat.

Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) and John Kline (R-Minn.) are two early mentions for the race.

“I’d put Congressmen Paulsen and Kline at the top of the list, they’d both be very strong candidates,” said Brian McClung, who served as former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s (R) deputy chief of staff.

Neither congressman would say for sure what his plans are.

I’d be surprised if Kline seriously looks at running.  As chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, he already has ample opportunity to indulge his self-important authoritarian tendencies almost to the max, despite his being an incompetent legislator.  He can’t stand to be challenged in any way, and the notion of Franken ripping him to shreds in public has to be anathema to him.

Paulsen, on the other hand, I see as a very real possibility.  Next to a couple of state legislative contests for which I had high hopes, the ease with which he was reelected in MN-03 was my biggest disappointment in Minnesota, this cycle.  He won in a romp because he was able to portray himself as a “sensible moderate.”  His voting record is in fact that of a stone conservative, by any reality-based standard, and I don’t know that he’d be able to successfully disguise that in the hot glare of a contested U.S. Senate race.  We may well find out.

Bill Prendergast November 19, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Paulsen, a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, seemed taken aback when asked whether he’d been asked to challenge Franken in 2014.

‘Huh? Me?! Why would anyone ask me to run for Sena–Are you making fun of me? Oh. You’re being serious. What, have you heard something? I haven’t heard anything. (to aide) Have you heard anything? (to reporter) They never tell us anything. Seriously–all the years I’ve been in the party, no one’s even mentioned the possibility of me as a Senate pick. That’s why I thought you were kidding with that question, that’s why I was ‘taken aback’ at the suggestion.’

Judeling November 19, 2012 at 9:46 pm

As the GOP desperately attempts to tone down the crazy at both the federal and state level, she is going to find herself increasingly out of the limelight. This will prove to be untenable for the fund raising machines that depend on people like her. Additionally the desire to secure the 6th after the closeness of the past election must have the party searching for a more reasonable replacement. With DFL effort shifting from the 8th to the 2nd or 3rd both Kline and Paulsen need a reasonable by comparison high profile candidate to suck up the outside money. She is the only one who could possibly compete in the money race with Al.

With her at the top of the Federal races driving the base, the statewide races can appear more reasonable. It isn’t only progressives that understand Bachmann’s craziness, we just cant rationalize the “truth” under the craziness the way the media and the Republicans can.

Bill Prendergast November 19, 2012 at 10:30 pm

…you’re right about the money, she’s a cash cow and could raise the money easily. And you might be right about how a Bachmann Senate run would play to Kline and Paulsen needs next cycle; I wouldn’t know.

But she’s very unpopular statewide, and you note she barely squeaked by this year in the most conservative district in MN. And you can rely on her to earn more negative national press in the run-up to the next election.

One other thing: she’s all about her national career, always has been. So the very real prospect of a humiliating “Kurt Bills-style” defeat at the hands of a liberal like Franken won’t appeal to her. That level of public rejection might even finish her viability as a national conservative demagogue in office. I wouldn’t pursue it seriously, if I were her.

Globe199 November 19, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I will absolutely vote for Bachmann in the primary.  If we can get her on the ballot against Franken, it will be almost as big a coup as Akin in Missouri.  In fact, Franken’s campaign should be on the phone with Clare McCaskill’s campaign RIGHT NOW learning how they did it.

There is a conventional wisdom in Minnesota that Franken is vulnerable.  I believe that’s true, but not because it’s Franken.  I think any Democrat is vulnerable in an off-year election because turnout is lower.  If we have anything close to a repeat of the 2010 debacle (probable, IMHO), Franken may be toast.

On the flip side, I think Franken would beat Bachmann.  He may not beat someone like Paulsen.

JML November 19, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Erik will run for Senate. Whether he will get endorsed and/or be the nominee is less clear, but Erik will run. He’s already started making moves for this, courting Tea Party activists, expanding his fundraising base, etc.

I know a lot of people are disappointed the CD3 race wasn’t closer, but consider a few salient facts. 1) This was not a targeted race, which cut off national support and left Brian Barnes to go it alone; 2) Barnes got nearly as many votes in 2012 in a loss as Paulsen did in 2010 in a win, increasing DFL performance to its highest level in decades (both in total votes and percentage); 3) Paulsen had to spend his money to get to the levels he did, and wasn’t able to bank it for his Senate race as he had planned; 4) Barnes had some of the best “bang for the buck” in the state in terms of cost per vote. All good things from a first time candidate, and particularly good if he runs again.

I agree with the analysis on Kline: he’s older and hates being challenges. he doesn’t particularly like being in Congress, and has already been there much longer than his pledge. he’d be a dangerous candidate too, but I suspect he doesn’t want the fight.

ericf November 20, 2012 at 2:19 am

Kline chairs a committee, which is a pretty powerful position. Though 2012 was close, incumbency is enough of an advantage he’ll probably win as long as he runs. The House Republican majority is probably long-term, given that they kept one of the biggest majorities Republicans have ever had despite losing the total vote. Gerrymandering will protect them at least until the next redistricting. If he runs for the Senate, he’ll have a tough election and likely be a freshman in the minority if he wins. Unless he’s sick of the House, I can’ see him running.

Paulsen has a lot less to lose having less seniority, but again, he’d have to give up a safe seat and middling status in a majority to run a difficult race to be in a minority. I think it unlikely he runs.

Bachmann? Well, hubris is in no short supply, and the GOP base would love it. Losing a Senate race would be less embarrassing than losing a safe House seat. But she would be more likely to keep winning the 6th and she wants the platform. Maybe she has delusions of caucus leadership.

And of course, there’s still the matter of the MNGOP has to run somebody. Maybe Bills wants a second chance? My guess is still Norm Coleman wants revenge, and the GOP wants revenge enough to give him the chance, especially since they don’t have better candidate. Otherwise Pawlenty, but I think Pawlenty wants back in as gov.

dan.burns November 20, 2012 at 4:41 am

Senate term would potentially hugely improve Paulsen’s post-congressional earnings power as a lobbyist, maybe for Big Device.  Because of course that industry has earned every tax break and deregulation imaginable, given its record of providing defective, overpriced products to a captive clientele.

That being said, I’m by no means convinced that he’ll run.  He’s definitely limelight-shy.  I also think that, in the absence of a 2010-style perfect storm of headwinds hammering the Democrats, Franken isn’t really very vulnerable, and, like you say, why would Paulsen risk it?  

Minnesota Central November 20, 2012 at 9:34 pm

The battle is not between Kline and Paulsen but instead between the MNGOP and the national party. Previously, the GOP weighed in was when Mark Kennedy was annointed over Gil Gutknecht … and of course, Cheney called Pawlenty and told him to let Coleman run (so if there is any talk of Minnesota legislators running … think – Dave Thompson that could be just to get “buzz” while waiting to get told that the title “Governor Thompson” has a better ring then “Senator Thompson”.)

My view is that after losing Senate seats with “wacko” candidates that get exposed by their own words (think Delaware, Nevada, Missouri, Indiana), the RNC and all the SuperPAC money (including Norm Coleman’s American Action Network) will want a candidate that they know can appeal to the Minnesota mainstream … which Tom Emmer and Kurt Bills proved was not the type of candidates that a broad base of Minnesotans will support.

Kline proved in 2010 and 2012 that he does not want to campaign or debate … he won because “ticket-splitters” opted for the “harmless Grandfather-type worried about the next generation” … has anyone looked at the Second District votes ?
Well, consider this :
Obama won the District with 184,801 votes
Klobuchar won the District with 226,099
DFL won the MN Senate Districts with 186,418
DFL barely lost the MN House Districts by 802 votes but still tallied 172,104
There were 200,763 NO votes on the Marriage Amendment and 182,350 NO votes on the Voter ID.
Thus, isn’t it reasonable to anticipate that at least 172,104 voters would support a DFL candidate for Congress (if not 182,350) … yet Mike Obermueller only got 164,335 … meaning that the ticket-splitters went for Chairman Kline.
Now, consider that 18,906 people voted in the Presidential election but failed to cast a vote in the Second District contest and tells us that the DFL “educate the voters on who John Kline really is” program failed … let’s just say, the No Voter Left Behind program got a failing grade.
Now, in a Senate contest, Kline would be exposed … he would give up a Safe seat and possibly the Chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee (unless rules are changed the McKeon and Kline would both lose their committee Chairs next term, but they could just switch.)
Ain’t gonna happen.

Paulsen on the other hand, ran a 2012 campaign based on promoting himself for 2014 Senate … the “math guy” who could reach across the aisle to get every member of the Minnesota delegation to support his [flawed] Medical Tax Device repeal [which Franken supports ... why, I do not understand] … he ran commercials when he did not have to … did you see one commercial for Ellison or McCollum.

IF the MN-GOP can reject their own flawed candidates and accept one that Rove/Koch/Coleman will support, they could have a winner … the loser will be the Minnesota public that will see an avalanche of negative commercials that we haven’t seen since Norm Coleman was trashing Al Franken … of course that was before Senator Coleman said to stop the outside commercials which now PAC-CEO Coleman fully believes is “educating the American voter.”

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