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Is a Franken-Bachmann Showdown on the Horizon?

By Scott Conroy - February 8, 2013

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Unlike several other states where Democratic senators must defend seats in 2014, no Minnesota Republicans have declared their intentions to take on the incumbent. In the meantime, Franken already has more than $1.6 million on hand and is preparing to hit the fundraising circuit in earnest in the coming months. (He recently hauled in more than $400,000 in a single inauguration weekend fundraiser, which was headlined by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.)

"Sen. Franken loves his job representing Minnesota in the Senate and especially enjoys the opportunity to travel around the state to hear from his constituents about how he can best serve them,” said Franken’s communications director, Ed Shelleby, in a statement to RCP. “The 2014 election is a long way away and right now Sen. Franken is continuing to focus on his job representing the people of Minnesota."

If Bachmann does not run, the Republican bench in her state could prove thin. Coleman has ruled out the possibility of a rematch against Franken, and Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen has signaled his reluctance to get in.

Former Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who stepped down from his GOP leadership position after Republicans lost control of the state House in November, remains a potential contender. But coming off of a disastrous 2012 cycle, the Republican Party in the state has serious problems of its own; it is saddled with a seven-figure debt even as it is increasingly intent upon carving a path out of electoral stagnation.

Pat Shortridge, the current Minnesota GOP chairman, told RCP that though he did not know what Bachmann’s plans were, the party would be wise to look outside “the same familiar political faces” in recruiting someone to run against Franken.

“The electorate has clearly said, at least on our side, that they want some new blood,” Shortridge said. “And I think people who’ve got some private sector experience -- people who aren’t coming from the traditional political routes -- could make for a very effective candidate in 2014. I think we need to be more creative when it comes to recruitment and thinking about who our candidates ought to be.” 

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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