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Franken Announces Senate Candidacy; Starts 22 Points in the Hole

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On Wednesday Al Franken officially announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate—aiming to become the DLF nominee to challenge 1-term Minnesota Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in 2008.

As discussed in a February 2, 2007 Smart Politics entry, Franken will have an uphill battle to win both the DFL primary as well as a potential general election match-up against Coleman. An early poll released Wednesday by SurveyUSA indicates Franken begins his campaign with more than a 20-point deficit to Coleman. In a poll of 632 registered voters statewide, Coleman led Franken 57-35 in a head-to-head matchup with only 8 percent undecided.

Franken's low level of support in this poll, however, is more likely a product of the state's generally positive view of Coleman rather than an unfamiliarity with Franken or a distaste for what may be Franken's two Achilles' heels: being a comedian (and therefore not viewed as a serious candidate by some voters) and his far-to-the-left political leanings. Coleman's job approval rating has hovered between the high 40s and mid-50s throughout most of his first 4 years in office.

Attorney Mike Ciresi—who ran a solid Senate campaign in 2000 and is being mentioned as a likely DFL opponent of Franken - also only earned 34 percent against Coleman's 57 percent in the same SurveyUSA poll.

While this poll is 21-months out from Election Day, it will be interesting to see if Franken is able to chip away at Coleman's advantage this year. In July 2001 - when the 2002 U.S. Senate election was 16 months away - Coleman had narrowed the late Senator Paul Wellstone's lead to just 4 points (Pioneer Press / MPR Poll).

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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