Franken Gets Challenge from Businessman McFadden

Franken Gets Challenge from Businessman McFadden

On Wednesday, MN businessman Mike McFadden announced he would challenge first-term Sen. Al Franken in next year’s midterm elections. McFadden released a three-minute video introducing himself to voters. A serious challenge to Franken expands the Senate map next year, giving Republicans a credible shot at taking the majority. 

Franken “won” his seat by 312 votes after months of legal wrangling over the outcome. On election night in 2008, his opponent Sen. Norm Coleman, was ahead in the vote count. Subsequent and multiple recounts whittled away at Coleman’s margin, eventually swinging to Franken’s favor in the end. Republicans have hoped to defeat Franken ever since. 

Minnesota is reliably Democrat in Presidential elections, but highly competitive in other races. In 2010, Republicans made huge gains and took control of both chambers of the legislature. It was the first time since 1972 that Republicans had controlled the state Senate. Democrats retook control in 2012, riding the wave of Obama’s reelection. The midterms in 2014 are likely to be hotly contested. 

McFadden’s first video is long on biography and features his daughter, Molly, one of six children. It focuses on McFadden’s modest upbringing and his current work with Cristo Rey, a very successful Jesuit high school catering to disadvantaged and minority youth. The only real nod to a policy issue is his expressed concern about the “direction of the country” and our high levels of debt. 

Franken raised $2 million in the first quarter. He has $2 million cash on hand, which suggests a very high burn-rate for his campaign. McFadden would have the personal resources to level the spending field. 

Democrats were already facing a difficult cycle next year, with a number of incumbents up in states won by Romney. Obama easily captured Minnesota, but the state’s fickle voters and Franken’s razor-thin win in 2008 could make this race very competitive. It is not a seat Democrats relish defending. 

Last week, Democrat polling firm PPP released a poll showing Franken leading McFadden 51-36. That is a very underwhelming showing by the incumbent against the relatively unknown McFadden. Franken’s approval is at 51% as well, with a disapproval rating of 42%. These numbers indicate next year’s election will be very competitive. If Franken is in a close race next year, its a good sign the Democrat’s majority is in jeopardy.