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

The Republican Party had hoped to start pounding on U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the State Fair, but no high-profile candidate has stepped forward to run against her in 2012.Related: Second Republican looks to challenge Klobuchar

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
danseverson.com
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.