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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Minnesota

Finally, The Fraternity Is Full

As Al Franken stepped into the Senate chamber shortly after noon, his newest colleagues from both sides of the aisle gravitated in his direction offering hugs and congratulations. Franken then walked down the center aisle, accompanied by fellow Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) and former vice president and Minnesota senator Walter Mondale, and stepped up to be ceremoniously sworn in by Vice President Biden.

The Senate gallery was packed to the gills, with Capitol police forced to turn away visitors at the doors. Normally asked to be quiet, the gallery erupted in cheers and a standing ovation when Franken said, "I do," and Biden concluded, "Congratulations, Senator."

The ovation lasted a few minutes as Franken received more handshakes and hugs from Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), to name just a few.

The SEN fraternity is now complete.

Franken 'Excited' to Get to Washington

Senator-elect Al Franken said today that he is "excited" to finally get to Washington to serve the people of Minnesota as their newest senator.

"Let me say thank you to the people of Minnesota for your patience, for your thoughts and prayers, and for giving me the opportunity to work for you in Washington," Franken said. "I can't wait to get started."

Franken said he believed he would be sworn in early next week, when the Senate returns from a week-long Fourth of July recess. He played down the fact that he will become the 60th Democratic senator, giving them a potentially filibuster-proof majority.

"I'm not going to Washington to be the 60th Democratic senator," Franken said. "I'm going to Washington to be the second senator from Minnesota."

No matter who they voted for, Franken said, "I want the people of Minnesota to know that I am ready to work for all of you -- that I am committed to be a voice for all Minnesotans in the United States Senate."

Franken said he has a full staff waiting for him in Washington and that he'll serve on the following committees: Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Judiciary; Indian Affairs; and Aging.

Statements on Minnesota Senate

The following statements were released today in reaction to the news that the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of Al Franken as the winner of the Senate race, as well as Norm Coleman's subsequent concession.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.):

"I congratulate Al Franken on a hard-earned and long-awaited election victory. I welcome him as my new Senate colleague from Minnesota.

"I respect Norm Coleman for what I'm sure was a very difficult decision. He had the right to pursue a legal appeal, but he chose to do the right thing for Minnesota. Norm was my Senate colleague for two years. Although on opposite sides of the aisle, we often worked together on issues affecting Minnesota, in particular securing quick federal support for rebuilding the 35W Bridge. Norm is a dedicated public servant. As a Senator, he took to heart his duty to represent and serve the people of Minnesota. I wish him the best.

"I also thank my staff for their incredible work doing double duty for the past six months. I am very proud of the work they did during a tough time."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.):

"I know a thing or two about close elections, and I appreciate both that Norm Coleman fought hard throughout his race and recount, and that he is now stepping aside and letting the people of Minnesota have the full representation they deserve.

"I enjoyed my time working with Norm Coleman in the United States Senate, and wish him the best."


Continue reading "Statements on Minnesota Senate" »

Coleman Concedes Minnesota Senate Race

Norm Coleman has conceded the Minnesota Senate race to Democratic challenger Al Franken, following the state Supreme Court's 5-0 ruling today that Franken won the race.

"The state Supreme Court has spoken," Coleman said at an afternoon press conference. "I respect its decision and I will abide by its result. It's time for Minnesotans to come together under the leaders it has chosen and move forward. And I join all Minnesotans in congratulating our newest United States senator, Al Franken."

"The future today is that we have a new United States senator," said Coleman, who called Franken to congratulate him.

Coleman also thanked Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and her staff for carrying the burden of two senators for the past six months, calling her "an extraordinary public servant."

Coleman said he called Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and "told him I was coming out here to make his life a little easier." Pawlenty has been pressured by Democrats to sign an election certificate, while feeling heat from the other side of the aisle to keep the fight going and prevent Democrats from getting the much sought after 60th Senate seat.

Following the court's ruling and Coleman's concession, Pawlenty released a statement saying he "will be signing the election certificate today as directed by the court and applicable law."

"I would like to thank Senator Coleman for his service," Pawlenty said. "As state solicitor general, Mayor of Saint Paul and United States Senator, he has been an extraordinary leader and public servant for Minnesota. I also want to congratulate Al Franken and wish him well as he serves the people of Minnesota."

President Obama also released a statement. "I look forward to working with Senator-Elect Franken to build a new foundation for growth and prosperity by lowering health care costs and investing in the kind of clean energy jobs and industries that will help America lead in the 21st century," Obama said.

Coleman, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, was elected to the Senate in 2002 after serving eight years as mayor of St. Paul. His challenge to second-term Sen. Paul Wellstone (D) took a tragic turn 11 days before the November 2002 election when Wellstone died in an airplane crash. Coleman went on to win 50% to 47% for former Vice President Walter Mondale, who stepped in for Wellstone.

Coleman's concession speech can be seen here.

MN Supreme Court Rules 5-0 for Franken

Almost eight months since the November election, the Minnesota State Supreme Court ruled 5-0 in favor of Democrat Al Franken, who won the official recount by 312 votes.

Democrats had publicly pressured Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) to sign a certificate of election if the court ruled in favor of Franken, and they continued the push today. Pawlenty, who is in Washington today, has said he would sign a certificate if directed by the court to do so.

"I once again encourage Governor Pawlenty to respect the votes of his constituents and the decisions of his state's highest court," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said in a statement today. "He should put politics aside, follow his state's laws and finally sign the certificate that will bring this episode to an end."

From the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:

It is U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

The Minnesota Supreme Court today decided that Franken, a Democrat, won the highest number of votes in last year's U.S. Senate race and deserves a signed election certificate.

The court said that Republican Norm Coleman didn't prove that a lower court made mistakes requiring a rehearing of the case. Coleman had asked the court to order thousands of rejected absentee ballots counted. He had hoped the counting would allow him to overcome Franken's 312-vote lead.

The court's decision brings to an end the seven-month state fight over the Minnesota Senate race. Franken has had a lead since January and a trial court decided in April that he won the highest number of legally cast votes.

Should Coleman not continue his legal battle in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and if Franken is certified the winner, Democrats would have a 60-seat majority in the Senate.

In a statement released shortly after the decision was announced, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) said:

"Congratulations to Senator-elect Franken for today's courtroom victory affirming his electoral victory. As we've seen over the past 238 days, no matter how many times Norm Coleman goes to court, the result of the election never changes: Al Franken earned more votes than Norm Coleman. Al Franken was elected to the Senate and he ought to be able to get to work for the people of Minnesota. We've always said that Norm Coleman deserved his day in court, and he got eight months. Now we expect Governor Pawlenty to do the right thing, follow the law, and sign the election certificate. From health care to the Supreme Court to getting our economy moving again, the challenges facing us are complex and we need Al Franken in the Senate. In this historic and urgent moment in our history, Minnesotans have gone long enough without full representation. Al Franken will be an critical voice on the issues before us and it's time to let him get to work."

MN Supreme Court Hearing Concludes

The Minnesota Supreme Court held a hearing this morning on the appeal by Norm Coleman over a lower court's ruling that Democrat Al Franken was the winner of the 2008 Senate election, as he led at the conclusion of the recount.

From the Star Tribune:

Five justices heard an hour of arguments on whether problems with absentee ballots justify reversing a lower-court ruling that declared DFLer Al Franken a 312-vote winner over Republican Norm Coleman. [snip]

Justice Alan Page concluded the hearing saying only that a decision would be forthcoming, offering no indication when that might be. However, a ruling is expected from the court sometime this month.

If the court were to uphold the lower-court ruling, that could end the protracted struggle and allow Franken to join the Senate, giving Democrats 60 votes and the ability to fend off Republican filibusters.

So, the wait continues. It's still unclear how much longer the wait will be, including after the Court releases its decision.

"The bottom line is Al Franken got more votes and that is why Al Franken won the election, why Al Franken won the recount, why Al Franken won the election contest, and why he should soon prevail in the Minnesota Supreme Court," Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said following the hearing's conclusion. "We have always said Norm Coleman deserves his day in court, but the Minnesota court system should be the end of the road for former Senator Coleman."

After Franken Meeting, VP Calls For "Full Representation" For MN

Vice President Biden released the following statement after meeting with Al Franken, the Democrat who has claimed victory in last fall's razor-thin Senate election in Minnesota:

"The election process and recount in Minnesota have lived up to the state's reputation for organization, transparency, and bipartisanship. The officials have been meticulous and every ruling has been unanimous.

"While Senator Amy Klobuchar is one of the hardest working members of the United States Senate, Minnesotans deserve their full representation.

"Once the Minnesota Supreme Court has issued its final ruling in this case, the President and I look forward to working with Mr. Franken on building an economy for the 21st century."

Two-Thirds of Minnesotans Say Coleman Should Concede

Public Policy Polling has another survey out today, this one on the overtime Minnesota Senate race. It finds that nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans believe it's time for former Sen. Norm Coleman to concede the race to Democrat Al Franken.

A three-judge panel declared Franken the winner on Monday. Asked if Coleman should concede or appeal the ruling, 37 percent said he should appeal, while 63 percent said he should concede. Asked if Franken should be seated immediately, a slightly smaller number -- 59 percent, said yes, while 41 percent favor leaving it vacant. An identical ratio said Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) should sign a certificate of election.

Interestingly, when asked who the voter picked last November, the breakdown was roughly identical to the final result. Franken and Coleman each got roughly 42 percent of the vote, with independent candidate Dean Barkley garnering 15 percent. In the poll, 41 percent of voters said they picked Franken and Coleman, with 13 percent for Barkley.

President Obama has a 60 percent approval rating in Minnesota, according to the poll. Forty-eight percent of voters agreed with the sentiment that Republicans are funding Coleman's challenge to slow the president's agenda.

The poll surveyed 805 Minnesota voters from APril 14-15, and had a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

RNC "Strongly" Supports Coleman Appeal

When the RNC did not immediately respond to yesterday's ruling by a three-judge panel on the Minnesota Senate recount, the DNC jumped on it. But now, with former Sen. Norm Coleman making clear his intention to appeal the ruling, chairman Michael Steele has issued this statement:

"I am glad that Senator Coleman is appealing the recent court order in Minnesota. More than 4,400 voters remain disenfranchised because judges ignored equal protection concerns and the facts from Election Day. The Republican Party will continue to strongly support Senator Coleman's appeals until we are confident that no voter is left behind."

At the White House, meanwhile, press secretary Robert Gibbs said the White House agrees with the panel in saying the election was conducted "fairly, impartially and accurately," and that Democrat Al Franken won the most votes.

"We look forward, hopefully soon, to adding an additional U.S. Senator representing the people of the state of Minnesota," Gibbs said.

Coleman to Appeal Franken Decision

Republican Norm Coleman is indeed appealing yesterday's court decision that Al Franken is the winner of the Senate contest, Politico reports. The decision surely won't please Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, who released a lengthy statement last night calling on Coleman to concede the race:

"Enough is enough. It is time for Norm Coleman to concede and for Al Franken to be sworn in as the next U.S. Senator from Minnesota. The voters of Minnesota months ago elected Al Franken to the Senate - and during every step in the legal process that judgment has been confirmed. Norm Coleman's own legal challenge resulted in more votes for Al Franken and now a three judge panel has ruled Al Franken the winner. Former Senator Coleman's insistence on continuing his quixotic quest for this seat at best shows that he is putting his own political ambition ahead of the people and worst that he is complicit in an effort by national Republicans to deny Al Franken this seat for as long as possible so there is one less Democratic vote for President Obama's agenda for change. "The people of Minnesota deserve two Senators and the people of America deserve 100 in the U.S. Senate. More importantly, the voters who cast ballots on Election Day deserve to have their verdict stand. Senator Coleman may have a right to continue his legal challenges no matter how hopeless they are, but the right thing to do here is to concede defeat and allow this saga to end once and for all."

Franken Gives First Nat'l Interview

Al Franken, locked in a court battle over the results of the Minnesota Senate race, sat down for his first national interview since the election with his former employer, Air America.

Here are some excerpts of the interview conducted by Mark Green, which is set to air for the first time tomorrow at 6 p.m. ET.

Franken, on how the process will turn out for him:

GREEN: What's the hold-up? Haven't you been certified the winner by the secretary of state of Minnesota?
FRANKEN: Well, I've been certified as the winner of the recount. So I just want to be fair to everybody. When I was certified by the state canvassing board as the winner of the recount, Coleman, as is his right, filed a legal contest contesting the outcome of the recount. And that was January 6th, the day that I could've been seated as the winner of the recount. Then we went to trial January 26th, and this is the fourth week. At the end of this past week, the judges issued a ruling, which we think is a great ruling, which narrowed the standards and scope of the absentee ballots that have been previously rejected...then the Coleman people kind of did a 180. They had not wanted these ballots included at all, but now that they're behind, they wanted them all included. The narrowing of the universe of these absentee ballots that could be counted is such that we really believe we're going to win, and we're going to win soon.

Franken, on Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly:

GREEN: Given your famous spats with Limbaugh and O'Reilly, what have they been saying about your success, or do you now tune them out?
FRANKEN: Well, you know what? I've already been doing that. I don't know what they've been saying. I really don't. I haven't been paying any attention. That is the great thing about doing this. You really stop paying attention to that. On Air America, part of the three hours a day is debunking the right and that kind of thing. But, when you're faced with actually trying to help folks, you know, the past couple of days I've been going around talking to mayors in Duluth and Two Harbors, Minnesota, the mayor of Champlain, the mayor of St. Paul, the mayor of Rochester, county commissioners, etc., trying to figure out how they can get access to the stimulus package, and what they need. That's seems much more productive than trying to listen to Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly and hear what they think about me. Actually, that was one of the nicest things that happened to me once I left the radio show -- I stopped paying attention to them.

MN: Divided Polls

A heated debate, as Josh posted below, two court cases about a $75,000 payment that is ethically murky at best and a party activist calling a sitting U.S. Senator a "lying sack of crap." What happened to that "Minnesota Nice" thing we've heard so much about?

Just hours before voters head to the polls, two surveys show Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken running neck and neck, with each trading leads. The Star Tribune Minnesota Poll surveyed 933 likely voters 10/29-31 for a margin of error of +/- 3.2%. Coleman, Franken and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley were tested.

General Election Matchup
Franken........42 (+3 from last, 10/17)
Coleman........38 (+2)
Barkley........15 (-3)

While the Star Tribune hasn't showed Coleman leading since early September, other polls are showing the freshman Republican making a comeback. A Research 2000/DailyKos poll surveyed 600 likely voters 10/27-29 for a margin of error of +/- 4%.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Coleman....43 / 10 / 89 / 41 (+4 from last, 10/16)
Franken....40 / 74 / 4 / 30 (-1)
Barkley....15 / 13 / 6 / 28 (-3)

Franken leads by a wide 45%-33% margin among those who have already voted, but Barkley, the least-funded of the three candidates, is clearly taking a toll on what has become the most expensive race in the country. The Star-Tribune estimates an incredible $40 million will be spent on the race by both candidates and outside groups.

The race has been roiled in the last week by a lawsuit -- now joined by a second suit, Minnesota Independent reports -- that alleges a prominent Coleman backer funneled thousands to the senator's wife, charges Coleman loudly denies.

Coleman has even used a television ad to accuse Democrats of waiting until the last week of the election to leak the story. "What a lying sack of crap," Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor chairman Brian Melendez said, per the Associated Press. (Just to clear up any confusion, Melendez added: "You can quote me on that.") Melendez later apologized.

The picture is muddled in Minnesota, but one thing's for sure: Neither Coleman nor Franken will win Mr. Congeniality.

MN: Coleman's Comeback

After a backlash against his negative advertising threatened his re-election prospects, Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman has mounted a comeback of sorts, pulling back into the lead in recent polls and garnering tons of positive editorial ink.

The latest poll, conducted for NBC by Mason-Dixon, surveyed 625 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Coleman, satirist Al Franken and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley were tested.

General Election Matchup
Coleman........42
Franken........36
Barkley........12

Barkley, as always, is the X factor. More Democratic voters are abandoning Franken to vote for Barkley than Republicans are leaving Coleman behind, the poll shows.

Even so, Coleman's new lead is a dramatic reversal from earlier this month, when polls showed him spiraling downward. After pledging to end all negative advertising from his own campaign, the Republican won endorsements from some of the state's largest newspapers, including the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Rochester Post-Bulletin and, in the surprise of the cycle so far, the liberal Minneapolis Star-Tribune (The "Strib," to locals). A recent strong debate performance for Coleman also won him rave reviews.

Democrats contend Coleman's pledge to end negative ads is hollow as the NRSC continues to hammer Franken as "angry" and unfit to serve in the Senate. But Franken's numbers have unquestionably sunk in relation to Coleman's; the Democrat last led a poll eight days ago.

MN: Franken +3

It's a repeat of the story we've heard for the last few weeks: Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman trails his Democratic opponent by a narrow margin, and thanks to a third-party candidate, no one reaches even 40%.

A Minneapolis Star Tribune poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates surveyed 1,049 likely voters between 10/16-17 for a margin of error of +/- 3%. Coleman, Democrat Al Franken and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley were tested.

General Election Matchup
Franken.........39 (-4 from last, 10/2)
Coleman.........36 (+2)
Barkley.........18 (no change)

Coleman has bounced back a little since the last poll, taken just after the dramatic stock market slide and just before Coleman took down the negative ads that might have been costing him support. But he's still got more bouncing to do.

MN: Franken +2

If Al Franken wins his Senate race, he's going to need to send Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley a very large fruit basket. A Research 2000/DailyKos poll conducted 10/14-15 surveyed 600 likely Minnesota voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Senator Norm Coleman, Democrat Franken and Barkley were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Franken...41 / 75 / 5 / 32 / 37 / 45
Coleman...39 / 8 / 85 / 33 / 43 / 35
Barkley...18 / 15 / 8 / 32 / 19 / 17

Obama.....52 / 84 / 9 / 54 / 49 / 55
McCain....39 / 7 / 82 / 38 / 41 / 37

Barkley is taking more disaffected Democrats from Franken than he is Republicans from Coleman, but in a race this close Franken would much rather see them go to the third party candidate than to his Republican rival.

Despite Coleman's pledge to stay away from negative ads, the voter backlash looks like it seriously hurt the senator's reputation. Coleman's favorable rating is a lopsided 42% favorable to 56% unfavorable, with just 38% of independents viewing him favorably. Franken isn't hugely popular either, with an equal 48% of voters viewing him positively and negatively.

CO, MN: Dems Lead

The latest Quinnipiac University poll for WashingtonPost.com and the Wall Street Journal confirms what several other polls have purported to show: Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman is in serious trouble.

The poll, conducted 10/8-12 among 1,019 likely voters, had a margin of error of +/- 3.1%. Coleman, satirist Al Franken and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Franken....38 / 74 / 4 / 32 / 35 / 41
Coleman....36 / 6 / 81 / 32 / 39 / 34
Barkley....18 / 12 / 11 / 29 / 18 / 17

The last Quinnipiac survey showed Coleman leading by seven points but inexplicably left out Barkley, a third-party candidate who's going to have one of the most dramatic impacts of any third-party player around the nation this year. Other polls also show Coleman and Franken essentially tied, with Barkley pulling close to 20%.

Quinnipiac also showed Colorado Rep. Mark Udall increasing his lead over Republican ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer. Also conducted 10/8-12, the poll surveyed 1,088 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 3%. Udall and Schaffer were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Udall......54 / 91 / 11 / 55 / 51 / 57
Schaffer...40 / 3 / 85 / 37 / 43 / 37

The last Quinnipiac poll showed Udall with an eight-point lead.

MN: Franken +4

The economic crisis seriously hurt Republican Norm Coleman, two new polls from Minnesota Public Radio show. The polls were conducted 9/29-10/1 among 346 likely voters (+/- 5.3%) and 10/3-5 among 418 likely voters (+/- 4.8%). Coleman, Democrat Al Franken and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley were tested.

General Election Matchup
(10/5 / 10/1)
Franken........41 / 31
Coleman........37 / 40
Barkley........14 / 14

Coleman's lead evaporated as the Senate and House approved economic stabilization legislation. Are ads explaining his vote in favor of the measure far behind?

MN: Franken (D) +9

Republicans have a long and storied history with the Minneapolis Star Tribune's pollsters. The short version: They loathe Minnesota polls. A new survey out over the weekend shows a surprising result in the state's U.S. Senate race, causing tensions to flare up once again.

The poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research, surveyed 1,084 likely voters 9/30-10/2 for a margin of error of +/- 3.7%. Republican Senator Norm Coleman, satirist Al Franken of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley were tested.

General Election Matchup
Franken........43 (+6 from last, 9/12)
Coleman........34 (-7)
Barkley........18 (+5)

Pollsters found Coleman's once-strong job approval rating diving to 38%, the lowest ever measured in the Star Tribune poll, and suggested Franken's lead can largely be attributed to Barack Obama's strength in the state.

Republicans fired back, with Coleman's pollster issuing a memo questioning the Star Tribune's results. The memo points to a SurveyUSA poll from earlier last week that showed Coleman with a ten-point lead over Franken, and to eight of eleven polls that have Coleman ahead.

The Star Tribune poll "is wrong and inaccurate," pollster Glen Bolger wrote, arguing that Democrats were significantly oversampled. "These numbers would be accurate if the Star Tribune had done this poll in New York -- not in Minnesota!"

"Based on our own internal polling, as well as the trend averages of public polls over the past month, it is my opinion that we hold a narrow, but statistically significant lead going into the final weeks of the campaign," Bolger concluded.

Republicans have had problems with Star Tribune pollsters since at least 2002. But the most recent poll over which Republicans cried wolf turned out to be surprisingly accurate. Two Star Tribune polls out in early October and early November 2006 showed then-Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar leading Rep. Mark Kennedy by a 21-point margin. After the Star Tribune took serious beatings from the GOP, Klobuchar won by twenty points.

The paper is using a different pollster now than they did in 2006, but it hasn't stopped Republicans from finding fault with the Star Tribune's numbers. The barely-concealed hatred is bubbling back to the surface.

MN: Franken +2

An interactive voice recognition (IVR) poll by Rasmussen Reports showed Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman leading by a big margin, forcing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to release their own internal poll showing Coleman trailing (Politics Nation has a long-held policy of not running IVR polls, see here for our explanation).

The Democratic poll, conducted by the Mellman Group for the DSCC, surveyed 600 likely voters 9/29-10/1 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Coleman, satirist Al Franken and ex-Senator Dean Barkley were tested.

General Election Matchup
Franken.........38
Coleman.........36
Barkley.........12

The DSCC wouldn't release information about where Barkley's votes are coming from, but the Independence Party candidate appears to be playing a serious role. Coleman's job approval, according to the Democratic survey, is a miserable 32% excellent or good and 56% only fair or poor. We await the Republican poll in response.

One partisan poll is no proof of one candidate leading or trailing, but the Mellman Group survey does show Coleman's not out of the woods yet.

MN: Coleman (R) +7

Norm Coleman continues to lead satirist Al Franken, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted for WashingtonPost.com and the Wall Street Journal. The poll, conducted 9/14-21, surveyed 1,301 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 2.7%. Coleman and Franken were tested, while Independent candidate Dean Barkley was not.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Coleman....49 / 11 / 93 / 50 / 51 / 48
Franken....42 / 84 / 4 / 38 / 42 / 43

Despite a significant investment by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Coleman still has good relations with his state's independent voters. Still, Barkley is likely to pull at least some voters from Coleman, making it likely that the winner will not reach the 50% mark.

MN: Coleman +4

Dean Barkley is crashing the party in Minnesota, and he's making his presence felt, a new poll shows. Barkley, the man who managed Jesse Ventura's race for the governor's mansion and served the final month and a half of the late Senator Paul Wellstone's term in 2002, will be an important factor in the already heated Senate race between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.

The poll, conducted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, surveyed 1106 likely voters between 9/10-12 for a margin of error of +/- 2.9%. Coleman, Franken and Barkley, the Independence Party nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Ind)
Coleman.........41 / 36
Franken.........37 / 30
Barkley.........13 / 24

Barkley was not included in the last Star Tribune poll of the race, conducted in May, but his impact is clear. Since that poll, Coleman has lost ten points of support while Franken is down seven.

It's no surprise that a third-party candidate has an opening to snag at least some support. Coleman and Franken have each raised and spent millions on paid advertisements slamming each other for months in the costliest and most negative race in the country so far this year.

Both candidates' attacks on each other have done damage. Just 42% of Minnesotans approve of Coleman's job performance, the lowest point at which he's ever registered in a Star Tribune poll, while 44% disapprove. A significant majority -- 62% -- say Coleman is someone who typically follows President Bush's lead, not something an incumbent Republican wants in when the president's approval rating resides near record lows. But Franken is no prize pig either. More respondents viewed him unfavorably than favorably.

Dean Barkley isn't going to win the Minnesota Senate race, but he could force the eventual winner well below 50%. And even though Barkley is taking votes away from Coleman, he's also taking votes away from Franken, who would normally benefit from anyone ready to boot the incumbent.

MN: Franken +1

After some of the most challenging political months any candidate has gone through in recent years, comedian Al Franken has new reason to think his bid against Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman has a chance, according to a new poll released today.

The poll, conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut for Minnesota Public Radio and the Humphrey Institute, surveyed 1093 adults between 8/7-17 for a margin of error of +/- 3.6%. Coleman, Franken and former Senator Dean Barkley, running as an independent, were tested among a sample that was 50% Democratic, 39% Republican and 11% independent or other.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Franken............41 / 71 / 7 / 30
Coleman...........40 / 8 / 81 / 36
Barkley...............8 / 8 / 6 / 11

Obama..............48
McCain.............38

Though a statistically insignificant lead, the results are a far cry from the ten points, or more, by which Franken has trailed in recent polls. It is also the first time Franken has led a live-call poll since late January, when Minnesota Public Radio and the Humphrey Institute showed him leading Coleman by a 43%-40% margin.

Barkley's presence in the race is going to hurt the Democrat more than the Republican, giving Minnesota voters another option to register their disapproval. Splitting the anti-Coleman vote by even a small margin could make all the difference in such a tight race, and two-thirds of Barkley voters say they see the country headed in the wrong direction, meaning that without the independent on the ballot they would most likely flock to Franken.

Republicans will complain about the poll's methodology by pointing out that it surveys adults instead of registered or likely voters, though the pollsters did weight the results to reflect current turnout models. Too, a survey over an eleven-day period could ring alarm bells for pollsters more accustomed to conducting polls over just a few days.

Still, a lead for Franken is a lead, even after stretches in which the Democrat was defending himself from accusations that he neglected to pay taxes in some seventeen states while simultaneously having to explain sexually-explicit articles he had written for a men's magazine. The last live-call poll taken in Minnesota, conducted for the Wall Street Journal and WashingtonPost.com by Quinnipiac University, showed Coleman with a fifteen-point lead.

New CO, MN Sen Polls

Two new Quinnipiac University polls, conducted for the Wall Street Journal and WashingtonPost.com, out today show good news for Senate Republicans, as one of their incumbents looks safer and as an open seat looks like a tougher battle for Democrats than previously suspected.

The polls surveyed 1,425 likely voters in Colorado for a margin of error of +/- 2.6% and 1,261 likely voters in Minnesota for a margin of error of +/- 2.8%. Both polls were conducted between 7/14-22. In Colorado, Democratic Rep. Mark Udall and ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer, the Republican, were tested. In Minnesota, Republican Senator Coleman and his Democratic opponent, satirist Al Franken, were tested.

General Election Matchups
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Udall............44 / 83 / 10 / 46 / 37 / 50 (-4 from last, 6/17-24)
Schaffer......44 / 7 / 82 / 38 / 54 / 35 (+6)

Coleman......53 / 19 / 94 / 55 / 58 / 48 (+2)
Franken.......38 / 73 / 3 / 32 / 35 / 41 (-3)

In last month's polls, the news was decidedly better for Democrats. Udall led by ten points in the 6/17-24 Quinnipiac survey, while Coleman's lead was ten instead of fifteen.

For more on the race, check out our post on The Scorecard from earlier today.

Franken Files For Sen

Comedian Al Franken, winner of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's endorsement for a Senate seat held by Republican Norm Coleman, officially filed paperwork to run for the seat yesterday, the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reported. By formally filing with the Secretary of State, Franken, who so far faces only nominal opposition in the state's September 9 primary, is likely setting up a battle royale in November between two candidates who have already shown a personal disdain for each other.

Franken has not had an easy ride in the last few months. After entering the race, local and national Democrats vocally worried about his past as a comedian with a penchant for sometimes off-color jokes. Lately, columns he wrote for Playboy Magazine and parts of his biting commentary in several of his books have come back to haunt him, while revelations that his accountant failed to pay taxes in seventeen states have dogged him as well.

But it hasn't stopped him from raising boatloads of cash. The one-time Saturday Night Live actor has already pulled in $11.5 million, including just over $2.25 million in the Second Quarter, and has $4.2 million cash on hand. For a challenger, that figure is unheard of so early in the year, especially without self-funding the campaign. Franken's burn rate -- that is, the pace at which he spends the money -- has been very high all year, but the race promises to be close; despite his rough few months, Franken is still just ten points behind his Republican rival, a recent poll showed.

Coleman, a moderate Republican who has assiduously distanced himself from the national GOP and President Bush, raised more money than Franken for the first time in several fundraising quarters. Through June 30, Coleman had pulled in $2.35 million for the Second Quarter, bringing his total raised to $15.4 million and his bank balance up to $7.2 million. That's already more than 150% of what Coleman raised for his entire 2002 campaign.

But in a state that has voted Democratic for president more consecutive times than any other, Coleman will need the cash in a presidential election year. Too, the Republican incumbent has been dogged recently by accusations that he is benefiting from a wealthy friend who is giving him a sweetheart deal on a room in a Washington, D.C. condo. While Coleman denies any wrongdoing, it's given Democrats an opportunity to shift the conversation away from Franken and back to Coleman.

Add to both flawed candidates' troubles the notion that Jesse Ventura might jump into the race, as he seemed to suggest earlier this week, and Minnesota has the potential to become one of the more exciting races this year. Ventura, the former wrestler and governor, says he will decide by the Tuesday filing deadline whether to throw -- bodyslam? -- his hat in the ring.

Without Ventura in the race, strategists on both sides will likely suggest each candidate spend the millions they will have in their campaign accounts to try to make the debate about their opponent's foibles. If the news in early November is about Franken, Coleman will win re-election. But if it's about Coleman, President Bush or anything that includes the word "Republican," the race will be too close for many Minnesota Republicans to watch.

Ventura To Run In MN?

Updated below

Former Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura, the one-time wrestler, movie actor and improbable chief executive of Minnesota, strongly hinted at a run against Republican Senator Norm Coleman in November in a weekend interview with National Public Radio, adding another wrinkle to one of the most contentious Senate contests in the country.

Told his would-be opponents, Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, he would run or hint at a run to try to sell his latest book, Ventura said he would run to oppose Coleman's support for the war in Iraq. "That's the reason I run, not to sell books. I run because it angers me," Ventura told NPR. "All you Minnesotans take a good hard look at all three of us. And you decide, if you're in a dark alley, which one of the three of us would you want with you."

Ventura has said he will not officially announce until next Tuesday, the filing deadline, but close political ally Dean Barkley has been dropping hints for months, as Kyle Trygstad wrote in this space last month. Barkley, who ran Ventura's gubernatorial campaign and served as Senator for the few months after a plane crash took the life of Democrat Paul Wellstone in 2002, had also said that he would run if Ventura did not.

As governor, Ventura had high approval ratings until his final year in office, when they plummeted. He did not seek re-election in 2002, instead handing his Independent Party over to ex-Rep. Tim Penny, who finished third to Republican Tim Pawlenty.

Polls have showed Ventura already collecting nearly a quarter of the vote, taking almost as much support from Coleman as he does from Franken. Too, beating Coleman is nothing new to The Body: Coleman was the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1998 when Ventura came out on top, after starting in the single digits.

Ventura's entry into the race would seriously hurt Franken's efforts to win the seat back for Democrats. By splitting the anti-Coleman vote, Ventura could help re-elect the Republican. Franken has already had a terrible few months politically, with revelations about a Playboy article he'd written in 2000, back taxes due in 17 states and late filings from his political action committee. The addition of Ventura to the race could end up being the nail in Franken's political coffin.

Then again, Ventura's vitriol could be directed solely at Coleman, and should he spend all his time berating the incumbent, Franken may find new life as the one candidate not wholly despised by the electorate. Coleman has been hit by local Democrats lately for paying only nominal rent on a room in a Washington townhouse owned by a wealthy businessman and friend.

Regardless of whether Ventura is serious, and of which other candidates are helped or hurt by the move, a Ventura candidacy would certainly make more interesting a contest that has so far been one of the most bitter and angry, and the most expensive, in the country. One thing is for sure: In a race in which none of the three candidates like each other, there will be no such thing as "Minnesota nice."

Update: Ventura tells the Associated Press that he has not made up his mind, shooting down reports that he will definitely run. The former governor maintained he will make a decision by next Tuesday, the filing deadline.

Coleman With Solid Lead

After some early polls showed a competitive race, incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman has opened up a sizable lead and is over the magic 50% mark, a new poll shows. Coleman's Democratic opponent, satirist Al Franken, has undergone one of the worst few months in recent political memory, and the fact that he remains at least close should inspire Coleman to take Franken's threat seriously.

The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University on behalf of the Wall Street Journal and WashingtonPost.com, surveyed 1,572 likely voters between 6/17-24 for a margin of error of +/- 2.5%. Coleman and Franken were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Coleman......51 / 17 / 92 / 55 / 57 / 45
Franken.......41 / 76 / 4 / 35 / 37 / 45

From back taxes to failure to offer certain kinds of insurance to his employees to a flap over an article he wrote for Playboy Magazine, Franken has been battered for months by national Republicans. Still, the race remains close, showing off the state's natural Democratic tilt. Franken's impressive fundraising ability will help some, but Coleman's no slouch in the bank account department.

For Coleman, an attentive campaigner who has distanced himself from the Bush Administration and is playing up his bipartisan credentials (though not to the extent of, say, Gordon Smith), the way to run this campaign is increasingly clear: If the election is about Al Franken, Coleman will win another term. If it's about President Bush and that "R" after Coleman's name, Franken will be very competitive and could pull it out.

The race is still a hot one to watch, given the tremendous amounts of money both candidates are raising, the potential for a third party candidate -- either ex-Governor Jesse Ventura or his one-time aide, former Senator Dean Barkley -- to enter the race and Franken's celebrity factor. But for now, Coleman has a substantial lead and finds himself well-positioned.

The Body Is Back

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura is considering an independent run for the Senate, and the rumor got a little more weight yesterday when a Ventura political associate, former Senator Dean Barkley, said that he not only thinks Ventura will run, but that he will win. The implications of a Ventura bid on the outcome of the race are still unclear, including whom it could hurt more, Republican Senator Norm Coleman or DFL endorsee Al Franken.

"I think the public would like an alternative," Barkley said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "The polls just show that [Coleman and Franken] have weaknesses that could be exploited by the right person."

Ventura, who was elected governor as a member of the Reform Party but later in his term switched to the Independence Party, appointed Barkley to the Senate in November 2002 to fill out the remaining two months of the late Senator Paul Wellstone's term. Coleman defeated Walter Mondale in the 2002 Senate election, after Mondale filled in for Wellstone on the DFL ticket, and took over the Senate seat from Barkley. A Ventura bid would lead to his second meeting with Coleman, whom he defeated, along with Hubert Humphrey III, in the 1998 race for governor.

A recent poll showed about a quarter of voters would support Ventura if he ran, placing him third behind Coleman and Franken. The poll also showed that Franken would lose slightly more supporters to Ventura than Coleman would. Still, more than half of respondents said Ventura should not run. Minnesota GOP chairman Ron Carey doesn't see voters going for another Ventura candidacy. "The Jesse Ventura of 2008 is different from the Jesse Ventura of 1998," Carey told the Star Tribune. "He has a track record now, and [Minnesotans are] not going to want to go back for a re-do."

Ventura declined to run for a second term as governor in 2002, favoring a return to the private sector and out of the public spotlight. Though he currently splits his time between Minnesota and Mexico, Ventura apparently is ready once again for life in public service. However, skeptics might say Ventura is merely dangling a possible Senate bid to boost sales for his book, which was published April 1, according to Amazon.com, and for which he has been doing a promotional tour over the last few months.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Franken Wins DFL Nod

Despite weeks of controversy over tax issues and a 2000 column written for Playboy Magazine, comedian Al Franken took a surprisingly easy win at this weekend's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party convention in Rochester. Franken beat his main rival, college professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, with 62% of the ballots cast, greater than the 60% threshold required to win on the first ballot.

That Franken would win the convention's nomination was not surprising, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote today. But that his nomination came on the first ballot, especially after some of the worst weeks for any political candidate this year, surprised delegates, who may have expected a protracted battle. After Franken's margin became clear, Nelson-Pallmeyer withdrew and asked the convention to nominate his rival by acclamation.

Over the last several weeks, Franken has been hit with a series of salacious disclosures, beginning with the revelation that he had failed to pay taxes in 17 states, an error he blamed on his accountant, who he said had mistakenly paid the taxes in New York and Minnesota instead of the states where Franken earned the fees. Lately, Franken has come under fire for the sexually explicit Playboy column and for comments about rape that enraged many Democrats.

Several prominent North Star Democrats, including Reps. Jim Oberstar and Betty McCollum, had called on Franken to apologize, with McCollum going so far as to say she would not endorse Franken if he secured the party's nomination. This weekend, Franken did apologize. "It kills me that things I said and wrote sent a message ... that they can't count on me to be a champion for women, for all Minnesotans. I'm sorry for that. Because that's not who I am," Franken said at the convention, per the Star-Tribune.

National Republicans, who had worried about Franken's candidacy, have been hammering away at Franken over the scandals. National Democrats, who had worried that Franken's past edgy humor could upset voters, were also taken aback. Former rival Mike Ciresi, a trial lawyer who dropped his own bid for Senate in March, has said he is considering re-entering the race and forcing a primary, which would take place September 9.

If Ciresi decides to stay out, Franken will go on to face first-term Republican Senator Norm Coleman in November. Coleman, who ran against Senator Paul Wellstone in 2002, before Wellstone's death in a plane crash just weeks before the election, is said to be atop national Democrats' target list, though recent polls have shown him leading Franken by wider margins than other vulnerable Republicans lead their opponents.

Franken Plagued By 2000 Playboy Article

A Playboy article written in 2000 by current Minnesota Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken has caused a maelstrom of outrage -- and not just from the opposing party.

With just a week before the state convention, where Franken was all but assured of winning the DFL endorsement (which is often tantamount to the nomination), the endorsement could now be in question because of a sexually explicit article he wrote eight years ago on the future of pornography.

Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, who represents St. Paul and Ramsey County, has been particularly perturbed by the piece. "As a woman, a mother, a former teacher, and an elected official, I find this material completely unacceptable," McCollum said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. McCollum had supported wealthy attorney Mike Cerisi in the primary before he dropped out earlier this year.

The Star Tribune also quoted other Democratic congressmen from Minnesota who found the article to be inappopriate, including Reps. Keith Ellison and Tim Walz, both of whom are freshmen. McCollum also stated that during a weekly meeting the Minnesota Democratic delegation holds, "The overwhelming majority of us thought it was a serious political problem," while "others thought it was a problem but that it would blow over."

The article was first circulated by the Minnesota Republican Party last week, The Hill reported then.

The Franken campaign has responded, saying that the work was merely satire. And Franken spokesman Andy Barr also directly responded to McCollum, saying "it's unfortunate that she's trying to create divisions in our party rather than working with other DFLers to take on [Coleman]," according to the Star Tribune.

In general election polling, Sen. Norm Coleman currently holds a 6.3-point lead over Franken in the RCP Average for Minnesota.

--Kyle Trygstad

Coleman Leads MN Poll

After a difficult two months in which he took heat for failing to pay taxes in some states and for not providing worker's compensation through his company, entertainer Al Franken now finds himself at a significant disadvantage to incumbent Senator Norm Coleman in Minnesota. Franken, who once led or was tied with Coleman, has faced such a difficult time lately that one candidate who dropped out of the Democratic primary has even considered returning to the race.

The poll, conducted by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, took place 5/12-15 and surveyed 1,203 adults, with a subsample of 1,117 registered voters. Both samples have a margin of error of +/- 3%. Coleman, Franken, attorney Mike Ciresi and college professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer were surveyed.

General Election Matchup (RVs)
Coleman.................51
Franken..................44

Coleman.................51
Ciresi......................43

Coleman.................53
Nelson-Pallmeyer...38

The income tax filing issue has affected Franken, the poll shows. 28% of respondents said the issue made them less likely to vote for the entertainer, including 20% of Democrats and 26% of independents. The fact that the Star-Tribune included Ciresi, who dropped his bid in early March, is another sign of Franken's ills. When he first jumped into the race, Franken made some Democrats worry about missing the chance to seriously challenge Coleman.

But the incumbent isn't in much better position. Just 45% approve of the job he's doing as a senator, as 31% disapprove, and 45% of respondents said Coleman changes his mind for political advantage. Only 34% said they thought Coleman has a core set of political principles.

Take note of the poll's source, too. The Star-Tribune poll has been a favorite whipping boy for Republican Party officials in recent years, as they criticize results for skewing too much towards Democrats. The final survey in 2006 showed Democrat Amy Klobuchar leading Republican Mark Kennedy by about twenty points, and though Republicans again called for polling director Rob Daves' head, Klobuchar won by a nearly identical margin. When surveys closer to November show a tight race, remember that no Republicans complained about Coleman's lead way back in mid-May.

Having Fun With Franken

After weeks of bad news for Al Franken, even other state Republican Parties are getting into the act. Franken, who earlier this year agreed to a $25,000 fine for failing to cover workers' compensation insurance for his employees, has also been stung in recent days by an acknowledgment that he owes up to $70,000 in back taxes in several states in which he performed.

In a letter to the South Carolina Department of Revenue, Palmetto State GOP chairman Katon Dawson last week asked director Ray Stevens to make sure their state received full payment from Franken's company, Alan Franken Inc., which received payment for services there.

"South Carolina faces an uncertain economic environment," Dawson wrote. "It is incumbent upon us to ensure that every individual and corporation lives up to its obligations to report its income, and pay its fair share of taxes." In the letter, Dawson requests a full review of the company's activities in South Carolina since its inception in 1991.

"I don't think people are going to believe Al Franken's good enough or smart enough to be a U.S. Senator because, doggone it, he doesn't pay his taxes," Dawson told Politics Nation. "But I have a punch line for the Democrats' star comedian-turned-candidate: show some personal responsibility and pay your fair share."

Franken last week said the blunder came when his company's accountant overpaid taxes in New York and Minnesota, where the comedian and satirist has lived, instead of paying taxes to the states in which Franken performed and was paid. Still, if even other Republican Party chairmen are having fun with Franken's lax accountant, one can bet the Minnesota Republican Party won't let the issue go so easily.

Franken Owes $70K

After building his name recognition, campaign war chest and overall credibility and all but securing the Democratic nomination for Senate in Minnesota, satirist Al Franken has stumbled in recent weeks as repeated revelations about his business dealings have made for splashy headlines. Now, Franken has paid $70,000 in back taxes and fines in 17 states where he earned money in recent years, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported today.

Franken blamed his accountant, with whom he has done business for eighteen years, of making fundamental errors that caused the oversights. Those oversights led to overpayments in Franken's two home states, Minnesota and New York, and non-payment in the more than a dozen other states where Franken earned money, usually through appearance and speaking fees. Franken maintained that, after the overpayment, he owed just $4,000 more in taxes, according to an early estimation by his new financial handlers.

The disclosure comes a month and a half after Franken's company, Alan Franken Inc., was charged a $25,000 penalty by the New York State Workers' Compensation Board for not buying workers' comp insurance, as the Star-Tribune reported in mid-March. After an internal investigation, Franken admitted the mistake and paid the fine.

Franken's candidacy was initially greeted with some skepticism from Minnesota Democrats, who wondered whether putting a comedian with a long history of raunchy jokes up against a sitting Senator was a good idea. But Franken raised a significant amount of money, outpacing -- and outspending -- Republican Norm Coleman several quarters in a row. Recent polls have shown the race close, with Coleman leading but near the margin of error.

But Franken's follies could bring a renewed sense of angst to the state's Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party, which since Coleman's election in 2002 has been itching for the opportunity to oust the Republican from office. Coleman won election after the death of incumbent Senator Paul Wellstone, whom Coleman had been trailing in polls.

While Franken retains a good chance at knocking off Coleman -- Minnesota is one of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's top targets -- he has seen his poll numbers slip in recent weeks. A rebound of some sort sooner, rather than later, is hugely important to Franken. Too, his research team, which might have caught the mistake before it was discovered by Republicans and the media, might want to go back and take a look at their candidate's record one more time to avoid future missteps.

MN Neck And Neck

In the increasingly bitter battle over a Senate seat both parties feel is rightfully theirs, Democrats and Republicans can each use a new poll as a platform to rake in more money for the two leading candidates. Polls in recent months have shown the fight between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and his likely Democratic rival, comedian Al Franken, a razor-thin contest, and both have raised millions for the November showdown.

The survey, conducted for the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace by the Republican firm McLaughlin & Associates, was conducted 3/6-9 among 500 registered voters, for a margin of error of +/- 4.5%. Coleman and Franken were tested.

General Election Matchup
Coleman 46
Franken 40

In one of the last truly union-heavy states in the country (Franken actually hopes to represent the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party on the ballot), the difference could come from union households, depending on their turnout. Franken leads by nine points, 48%-39%, among voters living in a union households, while Coleman has a wider 12-point lead among those who live in non-union residences, 49%-37%.

Each camp's fundraising appeal will focus on how close the contest is likely to be, and on how personal the other side will make it. The poll has Franken within striking distance, as he has been for months, though Coleman retains a distinct advantage, both in the horse race and in money in the bank. Franken has outraised the incumbent several quarters in a row, and with fundraising numbers due in two weeks -- and likely to leak out sooner than that -- another Franken victory could start to worry national Republicans.

Coleman has worked hard to distance himself from President Bush and the Republican Party. But while the GOP convention, held in St. Paul, where Coleman served as mayor, will provide big fundraising opportunities for Coleman at the beginning of the final eight-week sprint to Election Day, is being associated with a national Republican Party whose brand name is in the dumps really what Coleman wants?

Franken still has to get through the June nominating convention, where he faces little competition after a top rival dropped out. Anticipating the challenge, Coleman used his announcement speech last week to light in to his likely Democratic foe, accusing him of being a divider. By the end of this race, though, it is likely that both candidates will be bloodied virtually beyond recognition.

Coleman Announcing Bid

First-term Republican Senator Norm Coleman will make his bid for re-election official today with rallies at campaign offices in St. Paul, the city he once served as Mayor, the Associated Press reports this morning. Coleman, first elected Mayor as a Democrat before switching to the GOP and winning re-election, will face a stiff challenge from likely Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party nominee Al Franken, a comedian best known for his political satire on Saturday Night Live.

There are few Republicans Democrats would rather deprive of re-election than Coleman, who won his seat in 2002 after the death of Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone, just weeks before election day, in a plane crash. Wellstone's name was replaced on the ballot by former Vice President Walter Mondale, and Coleman prevailed by a 50%-47% margin. Now, the DSCC is training all its guns on the incumbent. "For six years, Norm Coleman has sided with special interests every time he should have been standing up for Minnesota, and voters aren't going to be fooled by his attempts at an election year makeover," DSCC spokesman Matt Miller told Politics Nation.

That wasn't the first time Coleman had faced a well-known opponent. In 1998, Coleman's rise to the top was halted by independent candidate Jesse Ventura, who beat the Republican and a lesser-known Democrat to win the governor's mansion. This time again, Coleman will face an opponent with high name identification, and he's prepared his attacks already, another Associated Press story reports.

In fact, with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shining the spotlight his way, Coleman's goal this year will be to turn attention back to Franken's career of edgy, sometimes racy remarks. "If the partisan disease is what's tearing Washington apart, for years he was part of that," Coleman told the AP. "The talk radio culture, the Rush Limbaughs, the Ann Coulters, the Al Frankens. If that's the disease, I've tried to be the cure to that disease for a long time."

The NRSC is sounding the same theme. "Sen. Coleman provides Minnesota voters with a choice between a results-oriented statesman and an angry liberal comedian," communications director Rebecca Fisher said. "We are confident that there is no question in most voters' minds that Sen. Coleman will return to Washington in November."

National Democrats see Coleman as one of the most vulnerable incumbents of the cycle, and polls bear that analysis out. A January survey from the Humphrey Institute, conducted for Minnesota Public Radio, showed Franken leading Coleman by a narrow margin, while Coleman easily led other potential Democratic candidates. Franken, too, has outraised Coleman several quarters in a row, though the Democrat is spending money at a faster clip and remains significantly behind the incumbent in cash on hand.

Franken will benefit from the state's Democratic tilt, especially in a presidential election year and as the national Republican brand is suffering. No state has voted for more Democrats in a row than Minnesota, which last cast its electoral votes for a Republican in 1972. And last year, Democrats captured the state's First District, where Rep. Tim Walz surprised observers by knocking off Republican Gil Gutknecht. This year, national Democrats are excited about their chances in the state's Third District, where Republican Jim Ramstad is retiring.

The NRSC will likely spend heavily to protect Coleman, who with New Hampshire Senator John Sununu is seen as one of the party's most vulnerable incumbents. And Coleman will be aided by the Republican National Convention, which will be held in his city, and GOP hopes that it might actually pick up the state's electoral votes after President Bush lost the state by only two and three points in his two bids.

Franken still faces nominal opposition at the state party's convention in June, but the DFLer has already turned his fire on Coleman. With the incumbent and the challenger already attacking each other, and with both candidates having raised an astonishing $13.8 million combined through December, Minnesota's Senate contest will likely turn out to be one of the nastiest and most bitter of the entire cycle. Coleman, kicking off his re-election bid today, will waste no time wading hip-deep into the mud.

Franken Has Clear Path

Comedian Al Franken took a step closer to becoming the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's 2008 Senate nominee when wealthy attorney and 2000 Senate candidate Mike Ciresi dropped his candidacy Monday, The Hill's Aaron Blake reports. Ciresi, who had invested about $2.5 million into the race, was facing a third-place finish at the June 6-8 nominating convention.

Ciresi finished second in the 2000 race to one-term Senator Mark Dayton, though he had hit Franken for being unelectable. Franken now faces professor and liberal activist Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, whose organization had outpaced Ciresi's in recent weeks.

Despite charges that he may not be electable, Franken has been the only candidate to both outraise and out-poll incumbent Republican Norm Coleman. A late-January poll by the Humphrey Institute showed Franken leading Coleman by a narrow three-point margin. Franken has pulled in more money than Coleman over several quarters, though Coleman maintains a cash-on-hand lead.

Franken Actually Electable?

A new poll again shows Republicans just why they should not scoff at comedian Al Franken's bid for Senate against Minnesota incumbent Norm Coleman. In fact, even as Franken and attorney Mike Ciresi battle for a convention win, both Democrats fare pretty well against the freshman incumbent.

The poll, taken by SurveyUSA for KSTP-TV between 2/11-12, surveyed 650 registered voters and tested Coleman, Ciresi and Franken, along with professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and businessman Darryl Stanton, two other Democrats.

General Election Matchup
Coleman 47 (-1 from last, 11/6/07)
Franken 46 (+2)

Coleman 51 (+2)
Ciresi 40 (-3)

Coleman 58 (+5)
Nelson-Pallmeyer 30 (-4)

Coleman 58
Stanton 29

Franken, who has outraised Coleman several times this year but trails in cash on hand, is still taking shots from Ciresi, his chief rival, for being unelectable, the Associated Press reported earlier this week. The candidates, running for nominations from Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party -- a name unique to the state -- will meet at a convention that runs June 6-8. Assuming the two leading candidates honor their commitments to drop out barring a win there, the party will avoid a September 9 primary.

Franken Leads MN Poll

Democrats searching for a strong candidate in Minnesota seemed initially skeptical that a comedian would make a good candidate. But a new poll, conducted for Minnesota Public Radio by the Humphrey Institute, shows former Saturday Night Live staple Al Franken might have a chance in his bid against first-term incumbent Norm Coleman.

The survey, conducted 1/20-27, tested the state's Senate race among 917 adults, for a margin of error of +/- 3.2%. Along with Coleman and Franken, attorney Mike Ciresi, Jim Cohen and Professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, all Democrats, were tested. Republicans might claim the sample was skewed by party registration. 52% of respondents said they were Democrats, while 34% said they were Republicans and just 14% identified themselves as independents.

General Election Matchups
Franken 43
Coleman 40

Coleman 43
Ciresi 38

Coleman 47
Nelson-Pallmeyer 29

Coleman 46
Cohen 31

Primary Election Matchup
(478 Dems only, margin +/- 4.5%)
Franken 42
Ciresi 18
Nelson-Pallmeyer 3
Cohen 2

Cross-tabs, only made available in the Franken-Coleman matchup, show Franken trailing by a single point among men while leading by seven among women. Coleman enjoys a 16-point lead among independents, though the Democratic base has yet to coalesce behind Franken, meaning his numbers will only go up. Franken has big leads among those who choose the economy, the war in Iraq or health care as the top issue facing the country.

But Franken still has to make it through either a party convention or a primary, and that process begins when Minnesotans go to caucus on Tuesday. If Franken supporters win races as delegates to the state convention -- regardless of which presidential candidate they support -- he can box out Ciresi. But Ciresi has run for office before, and he's got the backing of a good portion of the Democratic establishment.

Both candidates have promised to concede if they lose at the convention. But those promises have been made, and broken, before. Ciresi would benefit most from a convention win, as it will be difficult for him to overcome Franken's large lead in the name recognition primary. Still, it is likely the primary race will not conclude when the convention ends, and that no matter which candidate wins, the other will press on.

When Democrats get to a general election, they do have the chance to knock out Coleman. Just 50% of those surveyed said they somewhat or strongly approved of Coleman's job performance. Contrast that to the 66% who approve of freshman Senator Amy Klobuchar's job performance and Coleman looks like he might be in trouble.

Still, he will be well-funded. Through the fourth quarter, Coleman had more than $6 million in the bank. Franken has outraised him through several quarters, but Coleman's strong head start puts him well ahead of both the top Democratic candidates. Franken had $3.1 million in the bank through December, while Ciresi, who has given more than half a million dollars to his own campaign, held just under $1 million in reserve.

A Fine New Year For Franken

U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken has had a momentous couple of weeks, confirming the general assumption that Minnesota is a state to watch in November. Franken topped Republican Senator Norm Coleman in 4th-quarter fundraising, won a major endorsement, and also released his first two TV ads.

Franken announced last week that he raised $1.9 million during the last three months of 2007, eclipsing by $200,000 Coleman's announced 4th-quarter fundraising. Through the previous FEC filing deadline Franken had raised $5.2 million, almost entirely from individual contributions, compared to Coleman's $4.9 million.

Mike Ciresi, Franken's chief competition for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party nomination, has yet to announce his 4th-quarter fundraising total; he raised just over $1 million through September 30. Ciresi, who is chairman of a large Minneapolis law firm, finished second in the 2000 DFL Senate primary to Mark Dayton, and considered a second run for the seat in 2006. His fundraising will likely need to pick up if he is to compete through the DFL state convention in June, when the party will endorse a candidate, though he can probably self-fund his campaign until then.

On Wednesday, Franken received the endorsment of Education Minnesota, the largest labor union in the state with roughly 70,000 members. The union is encouraging its members to attend the February 5 caucuses and become Franken delegates to the DFL convention. The union's statewide membership should also offer Franken a boost in the general election.

The two ads Franken released this week offer a glimpse into his campaign's early strategy: proving his Minnesota roots and his commitment to taking the job seriously, two areas of criticism where the "Saturday Night Live" alum is vulnerable. One ad shows Franken walking down a residential street in his hometown of St. Louis Park, Minn., the other features his fourth-grade teacher referring to him as "Allen." At the end of both ads, Franken states that he is "serious" about representing the state in Congress. Neither ad mentions Coleman or Ciresi.

Coleman's reelection bid was given cause for concern when Democrat Amy Klobuchar delivered a crushing 20-point defeat to Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy in the 2006 election for the open Senate seat. Also in 2006, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty squeaked out a 1-point victory over Attorney General Mike Hatch thanks to embarrassing gaffes by Hatch and his running mate in the final days of the race.

Franken is already relatively well-known around the state, and it appears he will be able to fund a statewide race through November. If he wins the DFL endorsement in June, and if necessary the September primary, the forthcoming general election campaign with Coleman will likely be amongst the most competitive Senate races in the country this year - and certainly an entertaining one to watch.

--Kyle Trygstad

Updating The Exchange

We're updating our Senate race rankings today, which we have failed to do since late September. If you take one lesson from the list, it's that Democrats are in even better position than they were a few months ago: More seats are open, more pickups are possible and the party is still outraising its Republican counterparts.

Still, watch the middle tier races: Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) are in trouble, but they seem with each passing day to be getting safer. All three are bucking Republican leadership at times, and while Democrats have good candidates against each, the difference between a bad year for the GOP and a terrible year will be the difference between these three surviving or failing.

Races we considered for the number 10 spot: Kentucky, where Democrats are hungry for the potential to knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has a lot of money, though, and in a presidential year, as Kentucky goes for the GOP nominee, it's hard to imagine any but the best candidate (Rep. Ben Chandler?) having so much as a snowball's chance of beating McConnell. Polls show Chandler and State Auditor Crit Luallen performing well against the incumbent, but both have said they won't run. South Dakota, where Sen. Tim Johnson is still recovering from a stroke, should be a good opportunity for Republicans. So far, though, they have only managed to recruit a State Representative who reported just $37,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter, nowhere close to Johnson's $2 million account. Because of his health troubles, Johnson had been a retirement threat. But he announced his re-election bid in mid-October, and with an underfunded challenger, he will likely sail to another six year term in 2008.

(Correction: We wrote that State Representative Joel Dykstra had raised $37,000 in the third quarter. In fact, he raised $82,000 in the third quarter and retained $37,000 cash on hand. We regret the error and any resulting confusion.

Races we dropped from the Exchange: South Dakota, Nebraska.

Races we added to the Exchange: New Mexico, Mississippi

As always, agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts. And don't forget to head over to RCP's Fantasy '08 to trade contracts based on your own rankings.


10. Mississippi (R-Open): Resigning Sen. Trent Lott is leaving big shoes to fill, and Republicans might actually have some trouble filling them. As Gov. Haley Barbour looks around for a Republican to hold the seat, Rep. Roger Wicker is seen as the front-runner. Wicker has plenty of cash on hand, giving him a lead over any potential Democratic opponent. Democrats are working on former Attorney General Mike Moore and former Gov. Ronny Musgrove, both of whom would be top picks to steal the seat. But any Democrat will find it difficult, if not impossible, to win in this most ruby red of states. If someone like Hillary Clinton is at the top of the ticket, subtract five more points from the eventual Democratic nominee. (Last: Not ranked)

9. Alaska (R-Stevens): If your home is raided by the FBI, guilty or not, it's probably time to call it a career. Indeed, if Ted Stevens is actually the GOP nominee, this race will move higher up on Democrats' priority list. The DSCC is doing all it can to recruit Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. Other Republicans are said to be interested in a run for the seat, whether or not Stevens makes a bid. If Stevens is no longer in office, the state will have lost both its long-time Senators since 2002, while Rep. Don Young is tied up in the same scandal involving VECO Corp. Without Young, the state's position in Congress will be significantly impacted. In fact, should Stevens and Young run for re-election, that's likely to be a central tenant of their campaign. But will voters want seniority or new elected officials, like Gov. Sarah Palin, who aren't viewed as corrupt? (Last: 10)

8. Maine (R-Collins): Susan Collins was supposed to be this year's Lincoln Chafee: Popular and moderate, but a Republican in a very blue state. Democrats got their best possible candidate in Rep. Tom Allen, but polls in October have showed Collins holding consistently huge leads of twenty points or so. The race is going to tighten, and Allen is going to have the money to compete. But to the NRSC's relief, Collins is in great position a little less than a year out. Watch her rely heavily on her friend and colleague, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, if the race narrows. (Last: 6)

7. Minnesota (R-Coleman): Comedian Al Franken and wealthy attorney Mike Ciresi both say they will abide by the results of a convention among Minnesota Democrats. But several times over the last few years, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has faced nasty fights in post-convention primaries as candidates fail to live up to their promises. If Franken and Ciresi duke it out in a primary, Franken is likely to win but come away severely wounded. In a general, many will say that Franken is simply too goofy to be a Senator. But he's acting serious, and Minnesota is the same state that elected Jesse Ventura as governor. Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, to his credit, is apparently taking the threat seriously. One thing to watch: The Democratic convention in Denver will likely help Mark Udall (see number 5, below). With a badly damaged GOP brand, will the Republican convention being held in Minneapolis be a good thing or a bad thing for Coleman? The answer might determine whether he gets re-elected. (Last: 8)

6. Oregon (R-Smith): Democrats are coalescing around House Speaker Jeff Merkley, though he still faces attorney Steve Novick in a primary. Merkley, who has his sights set on incumbent Gordon Smith, faces an uphill battle: Smith is doing all he can to inoculate himself from charges that he might, in fact, be a Republican. Smith has turned against the war in Iraq, recently voted for cloture on the farm bill, something 45 Republicans voted against, and makes his opposition to the Bush Administration known at every turn. But he is a Republican in a blue state during a presidential year. Merkley will need some national help if he is to compete with Smith on a financial level, but this year, that is not impossible. (Last: 5)

5. Colorado (R-Open): Rep. Mark Udall is hoping to build on a Democratic foundation that has overtaken this increasingly purple state in recent years. Democrats now control the state legislature, the majority of the Congressional delegation and the governor's mansion, and Udall hopes to take back a second Senate seat from retiring Sen. Wayne Allard. Republicans recruited previous Senate candidate and former Rep. Bob Schaffer, and while he's not the party's perfect candidate, he spent the summer raising good money and, to the surprise of many, was within one point of Udall in a mid-September poll. Still, with the Colorado landscape favoring Democrats so much, Udall remains the favorite. This is a district where the DSCC's huge money advantage over the NRSC could come into serious play. (Last: 3)

4. Louisiana (D-Landrieu): Down on the Bayou, incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu is undeniably in trouble. A Zogby poll taken for the two-term senator's challenger, Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy, a former Democrat, shows Kennedy up by seven points. That's not a huge margin for an internal poll, but any survey that shows an incumbent trailing a challenger is significant news. Landrieu had more than $3.4 million cash on hand after the third quarter, while Kennedy hadn't begun raising money. Still, the Democrat who lost several hundred thousand members of her base remains the Republicans' best target for a pickup. (Last: 4)

3. New Hampshire (R-Sununu): A poll in early October showed the rematch between Republican Sen. John Sununu and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen overwhelmingly favoring Shaheen, the Democrat. Shaheen faces no primary and will benefit from her organization, which has stayed largely intact since her departure from the governor's mansion. Gov. John Lynch, a close ally, has kept that organization in good practice, winning with a higher percentage of votes than any governor in the state's history in 2006. Lynch is unlikely to get a strong challenger in 2008, and after the Democratic wave that swept the state last year, Shaheen remains a favorite to take the seat back for Democrats. (Last: 1)

2. New Mexico (R-Open): If Republicans can get bad news about New Mexico, bet that they will. When Sen. Pete Domenici announced his retirement, moderate Albuquerque Rep. Heather Wilson looked like a great candidate to retain the seat for the GOP. Then, dominoes started falling: Conservative Rep. Steve Pearce joined Wilson in the GOP primary. Rep. Tom Udall, a popular Democrat who will be well-funded, reconsidered his earlier decision not to run and jumped into the race, giving the party their strongest candidate to take the seat. But Udall's path wasn't entirely clear: He faced Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez in the primary. Until, that is, Chavez dropped his bid, giving Udall a clear shot. News can't get any worse for Republicans in New Mexico. But if it can, it probably will. (Last: Not ranked)

1. Virginia (R-Open): Mark Warner seems headed straight for the Senate, even if he faces another former governor in the general election. Polls repeatedly show Warner beating Jim Gilmore by twenty points or more, and there's a simple reason: Gilmore was elected when Virginia was a Republican state. Warner helped nudge the state to purple status, where it currently resides. After Gilmore forced Northern Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, a moderate, out of the race, Virginia Republicans will struggle to appeal even to GOP-leaning independents. The party can all but kiss the Senate seat goodbye. (Last: 2)

Sunday Quick Hits

Good Sunday morning. Some news as we wait to watch Rudy Giuliani face his most dangerous foe: Tim Russert.

-- Democrats got good news in New Mexico on Friday when Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez announced he would not run for retiring Sen. Pete Domenici's seat, leaving Rep. Tom Udall unopposed by any major candidate for the nomination. Udall will face the winner of the Republican primary between Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce, and while polls have shown Udall leading both candidates, their cases won't be helped by a long and difficult primary in which they both tack right in order to win over GOP voters.

-- Just a few days before Ohio voters head to the polls to pick a replacement for the late Rep. Paul Gillmor, Democrats and Republicans are dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race. Republicans have $388,000 in television time reserved through Tuesday's election, while Democrats are firing back with $237,000 in air time, the Toledo Blade reports. Democrats are attacking Republican Bob Latta for voting to raise taxes thanks to the 2003 budget, while the NRCC is hitting Democrat Robin Weirauch for her positions on illegal immigration and the estate tax. The district is heavily Republican, as RCP's Kyle Trygstad wrote, but Democrats must think they have a real shot, given the amount of money they've dropped.

-- Longitme Louisiana Republican Rep. Jim McCrery will not run for re-election in 2008, Politico reports. McCrery was in line to chair the House Ways and Means Committee before Democrats retook the chamber in 2006. McCrery opens a solidly Republican seat that the GOP will likely retain. His retirement, though, opens the third seat on the powerful committee for 2008: Reps. Jim Ramstad and Jerry Weller have also announced they will step down as well.

-- In Minnesota, Democrats might have trouble getting a nominee out of a convention unscathed as they seek to bring down freshman Sen. Norm Coleman. The AP reports one AFSCME council, centered in large cities, is backing comedian Al Franken, while another, though smaller council focusing on county government employees is backing attorney Mike Ciresi. Both candidates have pledged to abide by the results of a Democratic convention, but in Minnesota candidates who lose the convention frequently force a later, expensive primary. If Ciresi, independently wealthy, and Franken, able to raise large sums of money, head to a one-on-one showdown, Democrats may pick a wounded nominee to take on Coleman.

-- As Auditor Crit Luallen officially bowed out of the race against Sen. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, three other candidates are cropping up. Ryan Alessi, the Lexington Herald-Leader's indispensable political columnist, points to businessmen Charlie Owen and Greg Fischer and attorney and Iraq war veteran Andrew Horne as potential Democratic candidates. Owen ran for the seat in 1998, though he didn't make it out of the primary, and was the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2003. Horne ran for Congress in 2006, losing to now-Rep. John Yarmuth in the Democratic primary. Fischer has not run for office before, though he is likely to spend a significant amount of his own money on the bid.

-- Attack phone calls aren't exclusive to the presidential campaign. Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat running for a Republican-held Senate seat in Colorado, found that out the hard way this week when Common Sense Issues, a group best known for aiding Mike Huckabee in Iowa, began running a new round of calls against him, the Rocky Mountain News reported yesterday. The group is also running television advertisements, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says Common Sense Issues is coordinating with Republican Bob Schaffer's campaign and the Colorado GOP. Both Schaffer and Colorado GOP chair Dick Wadhams deny the charge.

AFSCME In On Dem Primaries

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees this week announced they would wade into somewhat competitive Senate primaries in Minnesota and Oregon, providing early backing for Democratic candidates in two seats the party and the union hope to take back next year.

AFSCME Council 75 gave its backing to Oregon State House Speaker Jeff Merkley, who is running an uphill bid against incumbent Republican Gordon Smith. And Council 5 gave its nod to comedian Al Franken, who hopes to face incumbent Republican Norm Coleman.

Both candidates face primaries before they're able to run against the incumbents; Merkley faces Portland lawyer Steve Novick, and Franken has to get by attorney Mike Ciresi. Still, the union's early involvement suggests their interest in the races, and thanks to new FEC rules, their involvement will make a difference come the general. Whether that difference is enough to put Democrats over the top, in what have to be considered seats that favor the incumbents, remains to be seen.

We'll be covering the Minnesota Senate race in the future, but for now, check out the backgrounder on Oregon.

Field Report: Two Approaches

Three incumbent Republicans seeking re-election are taking an approach markedly different from a Republican challenger who hopes to join them in the upper chamber. For Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith and Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, the farm bill this week offered them the latest chance to vote against their party and join Democrats in trying to pass what will doubtless be a popular bill in their home states. Meanwhile, Smith and Maine Sen. Susan Collins are moving to inoculate themselves against criticism on the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq.

Smith and Coleman both voted with Democrats to invoke cloture on the measure on Friday, joining every Democrat and two other Republicans. The measure attracted 55 votes, short of the 60 votes required.

Smith and Collins, who also faces a tough battle in 2008, voted against their party to support a war funding bill that would have required troops begin leaving in 30 days. That bill, too, failed to gain enough votes for cloture. But while Smith, Collins and Coleman have grown closer to Democrats this year, Rep. Heather Wilson, the New Mexico Republican hoping to replace retiring Sen. Pete Domenici, is taking the opposite tack. "Sen. [Charles] Schumer only wants to fund pay, body armor and chow for the troops if he can put conditions on the money so that they cannot do the mission they have been ordered to do," she told the AP.

Wilson, a veteran herself, will have to take some strong anti-Democratic positions if she can make her way through a competitive primary against Rep. Steve Pearce. While turnout in GOP primaries has been low of late, some in New Mexico are expecting a much higher showing after a barn-burner of a race, writes the Albuquerque Tribune.

Finally, in Maine, where Collins will most likely face Democratic Rep. Tom Allen, the Kennebec Journal has a message for both candidates: They "want to engage us for an entire year. It's a big race and one that already has national eyes on it because it could help tip the balance of the Senate toward a more favorable Democratic margin ... but six to nine months of that would be just fine, thank you. Call us back in April."