Meanwhile, back in Horseraceland:
University of Virginia Political Scientist Larry Sabato, one of the nationally prominent handicappers of political races and head honcho of “Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” has changed his rating of the Minnesota Senate from “likely Democratic” to “leans Democratic.” In Sabato’s system, a “lean” rating is one step short of a toss-up.
This puts Sabato, for the moment, out of line and slightly more favorable about Republican endorsee McFadden’s chance of defeating incumbent Dem. Sen. Al Franken than most of the other race-raters. You can read his analysis here. (Scroll down to where he calls Minnesota “The Sleeper.”)
In his writeup, Sabato acknowledges that there is no polling to really justify the ratings change, but I can tell you that there’s a bit of buzz in the universe of the politically-obsessed that the Minnesota race will tighten up. Sabato makes a few points that were already obvious: Franken won last time by the tiniest of margins; Minnesota isn’t as solidly blue, especially outside of presidential voting, as most of the country tends to think; McFadden is positioning himself as a moderate. He concludes:
“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.
It may seem odd, given polling and conventional wisdom, to give Democrats better ratings in Michigan and New Hampshire than Minnesota, but if there’s a race this year that develops late, we think it might be here.”