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GOP ready to go after Sen. Klobuchar but has a problem: no first-tier candidate

Recent campaign reports show that Sen. Amy Klobuchar has $5.1 million for an election that is 15 months away.
REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang
Recent campaign reports show that Sen. Amy Klobuchar has $5.1 million for an election that is 15 months away.

The Republican Party had hoped to start pounding on U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the State Fair.

Only one problem with that strategy so far. The GOP has no first-tier candidate to run against Klobuchar in the 2012 election.

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty was courted by the party’s chairman, Tony Sutton, but turned down the “opportunity” to run against an incumbent who appears to be both popular and loaded with campaign cash.

State Sen. Dave Thompson, the most outspoken and ambitious of the GOP’s state legislative freshman class, “weighed” the possibility of running against Klobuchar. But he also bailed out, saying that he was “honored” that people approached him but decided the time was not right.

So entering the Fair, that leaves former state Rep. Dan Severson as the Republican’s most recognizable candidate so far to enter the race.

Severson, you may — or may not — recall, ran for secretary of state against incumbent Mark Ritchie in 2010.

Often wearing his naval flight jacket (he’s a retired fighter pilot), Severson made much of how Ritchie’s office was “corrupt” and says that’s why Al Franken was able to defeat incumbent Norm Coleman.

Dan Severson
Dan Severson

Severson promised to bring integrity back to the office, but in a GOP year, he lost to Ritchie by about 3 percentage points.

His confidence untouched, Severson announced in May that he was going after Klobuchar. Severson, who was Tea Party before there even was a Tea Party, promised to get government off the backs of the people.

But since the announcement, his campaign has been flying way under the radar.

“He knows he has to kick it up,” said Sutton of the Severson campaign in an interview earlier this month.

How bad is it for the GOP versus Klobuchar?

Recent campaign reports show that Klobuchar has $5.1 million for an election that is 15 months away. Severson, in his most recent report, had $3,700 to win over the hearts and minds of Minnesotans.

For a little perspective on just how pathetic that fundraising effort is, consider that perennial losing DFL candidate Dick Franson, who is “opposing” Klobuchar for the party’s Senate nomination, has raised $2,000 more than Severson. (Franson’s political losing streak covers more than four decades.)

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Severson admitted that raising money has been difficult.

“I had one corporate donor tell me she’s [Klobuchar] going to be in there for as long as she wants so we might as well support her even if she votes wrong,” Severson said. “If that’s the case, we might as well start considering ourselves something other than a republic that’s representative of the people.”

Sutton, however, in several conversations has said that Klobuchar is beatable.

Tony Sutton
MinnPost photo by Jay Weiner
Tony Sutton

“Her support is a mile wide and an inch deep” is the line he repeatedly uses to describe Klobuchar.

In a recent interview, he said the GOP will start going after Klobuchar’s “liberal record” at the State Fair.

“We’ll begin to define her,” Sutton said.

And sometime after that, the party might have to come up with a viable candidate.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by J Ledesma on 08/22/2011 - 09:25 am.

    For a candidate, I’d guess it’s better to have support that’s a mile long and an inch deep than to have support that’s a mile deep and an inch long.

  2. Submitted by Tony George on 08/22/2011 - 10:33 am.

    Can’t the GOP convince one of their Koch-addled legislators to run?

  3. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/22/2011 - 11:12 am.

    The GOP’s money and efforts would be better spent elsewhere.

  4. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 08/22/2011 - 11:27 am.

    I watched Severson on Almanac one night and he came across wimpy and whiny, especially against the talented and articulate Mark Ritchie. I think he should be chosen the GOP candidate.

  5. Submitted by will lynott on 08/22/2011 - 12:05 pm.

    Short of a major change in the landscape, nobody is going to beat Klobuchar. And even though Severson is a nobody, he’s not going to beat her either. He’ll make a suitable sacrificial lamb, however. As for fundraising, maybe he could hock the flight jacket. There’s a federal law against military personnel appearing for partisan purposes at political events in uniform (a law bush frequently broke), and while he may not technically be in violation of it, it’s at least unethical for Severson to do that.

    BTW, that comment of his about how “we might as well start considering ourselves something other than a republic that’s representative of the people” is risible, considering the latter day political behavior of his republican cohorts.

  6. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 08/22/2011 - 12:26 pm.

    I’m not surprised. I don’t know anyone on either side of the political spectrum who does not respect Senator Klobuchar and the great job she is doing for us.

  7. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 08/22/2011 - 12:49 pm.

    Amy K is very beatable, especially if she runs on her record.

    Maybe MinnPost’s Eric Black could do a “special report” concerning Amy’s campaign promises and her legislative accomplishments?

  8. Submitted by Douglas Shambo II on 08/22/2011 - 01:02 pm.

    May smart and classy always beat loud and gassy – go Amy!

  9. Submitted by NIcole Masika on 08/22/2011 - 02:19 pm.

    I don’t think they’ll get far trying to define her as a liberal, she’s really a centrist and gets regular visits from progressive protesters

  10. Submitted by C.S. Senne on 08/22/2011 - 02:49 pm.

    Why doesn’t Tony Sutton run? He’s a huge presence in the Republican establishment, and rumor has it that he’s really good with Money…

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/22/2011 - 03:06 pm.

    The only pertinent information at Mr. Severson’s website is that he lists his political views as “conservative.” The lists of Navy service accomplishments and leisure time activities are there, but when I clicked on “info,” I was told I had to log in (!!).

    His attack on Mark Ritchie has left a bad taste in the mouths of many Minnesota voters. Mark Ritchie has been one of our finest secretaries of state. His work on the recount was praised by other secretaries of state around the country and, when asked to speak on it (and I believe on recounts in general) at their national convention, he received a standing ovation from his peers. We are very fortunate to have him.

    Amy Klobuchar will be hard to beat, not because she’s as liberal as most of us on the left would prefer but because everybody in Congress likes her and finds her easy to work with. It will be hard for the Rs to come up with effective attack ads.

  12. Submitted by Eugene Crandall on 08/22/2011 - 06:51 pm.

    It is a sad commentary on the Republican party when they cant admit that a good person is doing a good job.

  13. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/22/2011 - 08:12 pm.

    I’m occasionally amused by the anti-government rhetoric of various kinds of pilots, many of whom – all of them, if we’re talking fighter pilots – were trained in government facilities, and flew government-provided aircraft at taxpayer expense. Having really good eyesight doesn’t automatically make your political philosophy any more sensible.

  14. Submitted by Alonza Fronczak on 08/22/2011 - 09:35 pm.

    Amy is not left enough for me. Does that mean that I would vote for someone that is right of her to make a point? Well, NO WOULD NOT VOTE for GOP just because Amy is not left enough. Why, because within my brain are real functioning cells and I can see that the GOP is not a party for people (or even small business owners) and really appear to be OWNED by corporations (and a few mega-rich) and only interested in reducing the peoples standard of living (which has been going down for 30 years or so. Wake-up every one that thinks that a member of the GOP is for the people that casts votes!

  15. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 08/23/2011 - 03:54 am.

    Regarding Amy not being left enough, she doesn’t tend to jump out in front, but she seems to end up in the right place when it’s time to vote. All that I can really ask more is that if she’s as safe next year as she’s expected to be, she should campaign to help down the ballot.

  16. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 08/23/2011 - 08:55 am.

    From Some-of-my-best-friends-are-Republicans department:

    I’ve heard that those old guard Republicans are considering changing their party name to the Judas Party.

    Start all over again:
    “So think of it this way”, I say to my R-buddies…”I agree that you have too many Judas Goats hoofing down the campaign trail – tea-Party fanatics running on their cult-like ‘principles’ and depending on herd mentality to achieve their goals…why not send the whole goat herd to the abattoir or send them out to pasture?”

    Yes indeed, some of my best friends were Republicans…

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