WASHINGTON — There will be no Al Franken-Norm Coleman rematch in 2014.
In a National Journal article previewing Franken’s re-election campaign, Coleman “categorically said he wasn’t going to run for the Senate in 2014, denying the GOP one of its best-known possible challengers.” On Franken’s first term, and his potential crop of Republican opponents, Coleman said: “You can’t play handball in an open field. At this point there’s been no candidate. … He’s been pretty much invisible. In that sense he hasn’t created a lot of enemies. I don’t know if that’s his strategy, but it’s a pretty good strategy if it is.”
National Journal takes stock of other potential challengers:
Rep. Erik Paulsen, a popular House member from the Twin Cities suburbs, telegraphed his own hesitance about jumping into the Senate race on a local radio show. Coleman touted Rep. John Kline, another swing-district Republican, but he has passed up previous statewide bids in favor of building up tenure in the House. And Rep. Michele Bachmann, who would be formidable in a primary, would be the Democrats’ dream challenger, given her high unfavorables even back home. She barely won re-election in a solidly-Republican House district in 2012.
What’s clear is that Minnesota Republicans are wary of jumping head first into the contest, despite the obvious opportunities against Franken. After the 2012 elections, Republican Senate candidates Shelley Moore Capito and former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds immediately announced their campaigns against Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Tim Johnson. By contrast, there’s barely been a peep from potential Franken challengers.
Franken, of course, defeated Coleman by 312 votes in 2008, taking office the next July after a lengthy and costly recount process.
He’s maintained a relatively low profile in the Senate, focusing on Minnesota issues and developing his policy chops rather than making headlines nationally. He’s also laying the groundwork for his 2014 campaign, for which he has $1.3 million on hand. His approval rating is steady, hovering around 50 percent.
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com.