Tough to beat a solid senator like Amy Klobuchar in 2012

Right about now is when all “the buzz” is supposed to start for the 2012 Senate race.  This is prime Senate candidate announcement time, and the rumors should be flying. 

  • On February 9, 1999, Mark Dayton announced his candidacy to run for Senate against Sen. Rod Grams. 
  • On February 11, 2002, Norm Coleman announced his challenge to Sen. Paul Wellstone. 
  • On February 11, 2005, Mark Kennedy was the first candidate to officially announce his intention to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Mark Dayton.  Amy Klobuchar was a little later, announcing her intention to run on April 17, 2005. 
  • In 2007, Al Franken announced his run on February 14, 2007.

Generally, it seems a candidate announces their candidacy about February 11.  This year is a little different.  Instead of candidates throwing their hats in the ring, they are keeping them firmly on their head.  So far, Norm Coleman, Laura Brod, Marty Seifert, and state Sen. Julie Rosen have all said no, while other potential candidates are talking about 2014.

So who will it be?  A second tier candidate?  A young upstart?  GOP Chair Tony Sutton isn’t worried.  In a Tom Scheck report “Sutton said he thinks a candidate will still have time to campaign and raise money if he or she announces by the summer.”

Sutton is right, the candidate will still have time to campaign and raise money.  The question is will there be enough time to defeat Amy Klobuchar.  Tony Sutton called Sen. Klobuchar’s support “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

He is right about the mile wide, but his depth estimation seems a little off.  Sen. Klobuchar has been a very solid Senator.  She might not be well liked by the far left or the far right, but she is willing to listen to both sides and she has proven a willingness to make logical compromises to get things done.  That appeals to the massive group of voters in the center.

There are popular politicians that appeal to one group on the left or the right, for example Michelle Bachmann creates splash and attention, just look at her fan base on Facebook and across the country, but Amy Klobuchar is steady and full of substance which appeals to the moderates.  By the way Bachmann has 10 times as many fans as Klobuchar on Facebook, so head over there and click “like.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar should win in 2012, and she should win decisively.  That is why as we enter the normal announcement period, there are no major candidates rumored or ready to step forward.  2012 could be a tough year for Republicans in Minnesota.  I think they will spend 2012 trying to defend their wins in the state legislature and begin the process of running against Dayton and Franken in 2014, rather than try to seriously challenge Sen. Klobuchar. 

It wouldn’t surprise me if a serious candidate did step forward late though.  I’m thinking somebody like a Cong. John Kline.  He could use 2012 as a stepping stone to try and defeat Sen. Al Franken in 2014.

3 thoughts on “Tough to beat a solid senator like Amy Klobuchar in 2012”

  1. I think it will be a second-teamer running against Klobuchar unless Pawlenty flames out of the Presidential race fast enough to enable him to run for Senate instead. I don’t see Bachmann or Kline giving up a pretty safe House seat to run a difficult campaign for Senate in 2012.

  2. I got an email that the date I listed for Mark Dayton’s announcement is wrong. I didn’t save my sources, most of them came from MPR archives, I will investigate it later, but I wanted to post a note to be open.

  3. The buzz date may be reflective of “marking the territory” … thus Kennedy was telling Gil Gutknecht “I am in this race … stay out” … or Coleman pre-empting the Cheney call to Pawlenty to stay out of the Senate race. Also, it lays the groundwork for financial contributors. However, after the Citizens United ruling, Republican candidates do not need to work so hard for big donations … so there may not be the incentive to announce early (if there is no one else to compete against.) Also, remember that Bush and McCain both thought they could win Minnesota’s Electoral College votes, so suspect that the GOP would again target Minnesota … money will not be a problem.

    On Tom Scheck’s MPR story, I commented on the “ embarrassment of riches” created by the 2010 elections for the GOP … but they are not the party that deserves attention. The GOP will field a candidate … instead the attention needs to directed at the TEA Party and Independence Party.

    Although, it may appear that Senator Klobuchar might be tough to beat, just look at the 2010 elections involving Russ Feingold and Tim Walz.
    In November 2009, Feingold looked solid — with an approval rating of 45%, with a disapproval of 37%; and in polling he bested former Governor Tommy Thompson by 9 points and two other lesser-known challengers by larger figures. Then came the TaxEnoughAlready movement and Ron Johnson … Feingold lost.
    Tim Walz seemed assured of a third term … Allen Quist pushed the TEA crowd but the MN-GOP endorsed state representative Randy Demmer … that may have caused some friction with the TEA movement but Demmer got big bucks from Norm Coleman’s American Action Network and other outside groups … in the end, the race was close.

    Overall, the 2010 Minnesota elections elected a majority of Republicans to the both chambers of the state legislature … and just comparing the US House votes between Democrats and Republicans gives the Dems a slight 31,285 vote margin … 1.5% difference.

    The IP is the great equator. By offering a candidate the IP give voters a chance to vote for someone other than a candidate they normally would oppose.
    Let’s face it, Norm Coleman lost because he did not keep all the John McCain voters … 63,203 McCain voters did not vote for Coleman and that was voters going to the polls knowing that Obama was going to get Minnesota’s Electoral College votes … so they were willing to “waste” their vote on McCain and then in the Senate race “waste” their vote on Dean Barkley. It was Coleman’s vote for TARP that cost him the hardcore Conservative vote … a case could be made that he was the first victim of the TaxEnoughAlready movement.

    Tom Emmer faced the same problem from Tom Horner … if Emmer could have gotten as many votes as the Republican State Auditor candidate, Emmer would have won (Anderson got more than 45,000 votes than Emmer).
    IMO, Emmer lost because of some early bad mistakes (his support of Arizona’s ID law, waitress tips and his drunk driving legislation) which could have died, but he made the mistake of participating in too many debates. Every other day there seemed to be a debate and Emmer would restate that he would make spending cuts but then say he would support the schools … people saw him as just another weasel that would say anything to get a vote, yet he came within 10,000 votes of winning.

    At this stage, the central issues and candidates are unknown … but Senator Klobuchar will have a battle. Klobuchar has rougly $1.6 million in the bank (Bachmann has more) and she will need a lot more to be competitive.

    Klobuchar has been a serviceable Senator … no flash and no great legislative accomplishments. For some, she will be portrayed as a Big Government Spender – voting for TARP, Bush’s and Obama’s stimulus, Government Motors, etc. – while her supporters may be hard pressed to find one issue where she stands out. As I say, “serviceable” meaning that she gets along well with the opposition (enough that she was able to affect Rule changes in Senate operations) but not enough to be a mover. She wasn’t on the frontlines for healthcare reform … heck, she hasn’t even been that vocal of a supporter of women’s issues. Her best claim may be consumer safety issues – pools, toys and food — yet, those have had pushback (and the Food Safety legislation is extremely weak and should have never been approved.)

    So who could be the competition ?
    John Kline … nah … he’s lazy … he won’t want to debate or campaign … he’s finally got some power in the House and there is no reason to give that up just to be a blocker in the Senate.
    Michele Bachmann … not likely. She’s got a national stage to raise money for her mission … she will do better for her cause by running again for the House while traveling and donating to others.
    Erik Paulsen … not likely. Unlike Kline and Bachmann who performed better in 2010 than the previous off-year election, Paulsen badly under-performed Ramstad’s numbers and his 2008 vote tally. He does not have the statewide name recognition and seems to be getting himself established in the House with an assignment to the Ways and Means Committee in addition to the Financial Services Committee.
    Note : Redistricting could effect current district shapes (with Bachmann and Kline’s districts slated to shrink), so it is possible that someone could take “one for the team” by seeking the Senate seat if their home is moved out of the district.

    Tim Pawlenty … actually he should offer himself for the Senate but the GOP Presidential field is so weak that he could win the nomination. Interestingly, Pawlenty said the other day that he needs to perform well in Iowa and New Hampshire to be a contender … so the door is open that he could hold off until the Minnesota caucus before he jumps into the Senate race. The census has changed the Electoral College map to favor the GOP, but they still would have to beat an incumbent President … not impossible (ask George H W Bush) and if the GOP can make repealing healthcare as only possible with a Republican in the White House, it makes Obama’s task tough. However the Presidential contest in 2016 would be wide open, thus if Pawlenty won the Senate in 2012, he could “pull an Obama” and run for President with less than one term in the Senate.

    Other prominent Republicans that could excite their based are Brian Sullivan and Tom Emmer.
    Sullivan could follow the businessman model that Ron Johnson used in Wisconsin … the TEA movement would have no problem.
    Emmer may have lost in gubernatorial contest, but his philosophy is better suited for the Senate … and once again the TEA movement would endorse him.

    Now, let me suggest one other name that you are very familiar with … Dave Thompson. Think about it, he has Twin Cities name recognition from his radio days … a staunch conservative … I suspect that he could get Kline to channel a ton of money for a campaign … and he could stay here criss-crossing the state while Klobuchar has to tend to Washington activities.

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