So where do we stand when it comes to future elections? For statewide elections in 2012, we only have Senator Klobuchar, President Obama and the Anti-Marriage Amendment. In congress we are not sure about Michelle Bachmann yet. Chip Cravaack has already moved his family to New Hampshire, and everybody else is safe with the remote exception of Rep. Collin Peterson who might be challenged by Lee Byberg. But I’m not even sure about that being close. At the height of the 2010 Republican wave Byberg still lost by 18% to Congressman Peterson.
In one sense, the future is predictable. Just like I can look at the Twins minor league teams and shudder at the future possibilities of Minnesota Twins success in coming years, political parties can look at their “minor leagues” and begin planning for the future. Obviously you cannot account for a Tim Walz or a Chip Cravaack accomplishing the unexpected, but statistically, and realistically, we can look at the current crop and make some decent predictions.
2012 Election Amy Klobuchar vs. ???
Amy Klobuchar may be the safest bet in 2012. Dan “Doc” Severson has stepped up to challenge her. “What’s up Doc” is best known for losing to Mark Ritchie in the 2010 Secretary of State race and making the unfounded accusation that there was widespread fraud during the Franken-Coleman race and recount the main theme of his campaign. I guess he should also be credited for an undistinguished career in the state legislature during the 2000s where he authored five bills, two of which were constitutional “redefinition of marriage” bills. It also sounds like some guy named Joe Arwood is going to throw his hat in the ring and Phil Krinkie, always willing to get his name in the news is dangling ideas out there that he might get in.
Few current or future statewide political heavyweights are willing to risk what will likely be a horrible loss on this race. Actually, those three no-names may be a blessing in disguise for Republicans in 2012. I would contend that the worst thing the Republicans can do, at least in terms of maintaining their shaky hold in the state legislature in 2012, is to have a contested race for senate. A contested race might draw out Klobuchar supporters who might otherwise be a little apathetic about the president or other races in their district, and maybe be willing to consider staying home if Amy is safe, especially if there is a little snow or cold weather.
It is a well known that Republicans do better when turnout is low, and a low turnout strategy has been a piece of Republican election planning for over 30 years now. (Voter ID is one step.) If Tim Pawlenty for instance were to enter the race to lose to Senator Klobuchar, you can bet that DFL faithful would turn out in droves to make sure he has no shot at doing what he did to Minnesota to the rest of the nation, and other local races would be affected by that.
2014 Senate Odds
2014 is another story. In 2014 Senator Franken’s seat, the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Auditor are all up for election. My hope is that everything stays status quo there. I think Senator Franken is doing a great job, Governor Mark Dayton has done the right things and Attorney General Swanson and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie are phenomenal.
But things may not remain status quo. Governor Dayton will be 67 in 2014 and looking at the possibility of 4 more years like we just had. Secretary of State Ritchie and Attorney General Swanson need to consider if a third term is something they want to do.
Senator Al Franken is a lock to run again, and is raising money right now. Franken is more vulnerable than Klobuchar from a political standpoint, but many DFLers are much more passionate about Senator Franken than Senator Klobuchar. Al Franken is somebody who will really fight for the little guy, sure he isn’t as moderate as Amy Klobuchar, but he is more passionate when it comes to issues he believes in. I really believe Senator Franken is a Minnesota senator in the mold of Hubert Humphrey (pre-presidential aspirations) and Paul Wellstone, a passionate liberal fighter who people like because he cares, is honest and he is straightforward.
In my mind, the biggest question mark is Governor Dayton. This year had to be really tough and stressful, and he still has another year with this current crop of legislators. I do believe he will get a reprieve in 2013, because I think it is very possible that the House and Senate might revert back to control on the liberal side of the aisle after the 2012 elections.
On the DFL side, should Governor Dayton choose not to run, 2010 gubernatorial candidates Mayor R.T. Rybak and House Minority Leader Paul Thissen would jump to the top of the list, but so do Congressman Tim Walz and Attorney General Lori Swanson. Either of those two could bump Rybak and Thissen, who finished second and third at the 2010 endorsement convention, out of the running.
But the GOP side for Franken’s seat and Dayton’s seat is more interesting. On the Senate side, the big names are Tim Pawlenty and Michelle Bachmann. While they have the name power, there a couple of Republicans with real political skills and followings: Senators Dave Thompson and Geoff Michel, and former Representative Laura Brod. They might be the future big names. Some others based on a speaking ability and overall presentation ability, however knowing very little about them personally, or about the skeletons in the closet, might include Representatives Keith Downey and Andrea Kieffer and Senators John Howe and Julie Rosen. Those are prospects at least. I know there are people like Zellers, Dean and Koch that might have aspirations, but to be a major candidate today people have to see you as a politician, looks, height, hair style, speaking ability, camera presentation and confidence all factor into the equation as much as political stance and political actions. I don’t think everybody who has aspirations has thosedown.
This is how I see it playing out:
Early 2014 Republican Senate Candidate Endorsement Rankings vs. Senator Al Franken:
- Michelle Bachmann – She will be the odds on favorite in my book. Her presidential aspirations, although serious, are not really serious. She hasn’t stopped campaigning for Congress yet, but should she, leaving the House opens up the door for her to campaign full time for Senate. That said, I don’t think she can beat very many people in a statewide race.
- Tim Pawlenty – Tim Pawlenty has to decide if he wants to risk another losing battle with Michelle Bachman. Then he has to decide if he wants to risk what would be another embarrassing loss, but this time to Senator Al Franken.
- John Kline – Not mentioned before this, John Kline is in my opinion the top Republican candidate in the state. I think he could win anything he runs for. He won’t run for governor, because he doesn’t really live in Minnesota, and he is very, Very, VERY safe in Congress, so he may never risk taking the chance on Senate. Additionally, in 2014 he will be 67 and he would likely keep his House seat with very little work. And who knows, maybe he is interested in House leadership. Odds are not likely he runs, but he could win.
Early 2014 Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Endorsement Rankings:
Without ranking them, I think the favorites are Geoff Michel, Laura Brod and Dave Thompson. I’ve never met Geoff Michel. Laura Brod seemed a little rude to me when I had the chance to meet her once. I was wearing a DFLer’s t-shirt, so she knew I was a Democrat, and she along with so many Republicans seem to have an automatic dislike for Democrats without knowing them. I was going to say hi and introduce myself, but she never made eye contact and kind of walked by with her nose in the air. Dave Thompson is the one person here that I have had a personal conversation with, and although I really disagree with his political policies, I kind of like him. The couple problems for him that I see are that he is a little short, and sometimes I’m not sure if he is talking to me because he is interested in a conversation, or if he feels like he needs to be polite. He did it on the radio for years, so he may be genuinely bored by conversations with people. I feel like he may not care, he’s just waiting to be done,
which could be a negative in campaigning. I’m not sure though, maybe it is just me or maybe he doesn’t like me and is counting the minutes until he can be done.
If all three happened to run, I think Laura Brod would be the prohibitive favorite, I think women have an advantage with independents and moderates these days. But since she is younger and probably has a younger family than the other two, she may decide to wait a little longer. Plus, there is that mysterious health problem that caused her to drop out in 2010.
Between Dave Thompson and Geoff Michel, I personally think Dave Thompson has a better chance, but what do I know. I guess it depends on who the higher ups in the Republican Party want. Either way, there are other important seats, Attorney General and Secretary of State are both very important, and stepping stones to higher office that any of them may be interested in.