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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

Gender Equality in the US House: A State-by State Quarter-Century Report Card (1989-2014)

A study of 5,325 congressional elections finds the number of female U.S. Representatives has more than tripled over the last 25 years, but the rate at which women are elected to the chamber still varies greatly between the states.

Political Crumbs

Small Club in St. Paul

Mark Dayton is one of just three Minnesotans ever elected to three different statewide offices. Dayton, of course, had previously served as State Auditor (1991-1995) and U.S. Senator (2001-2007) before winning the governorship in 2010. At that time, he joined Republicans Edward Thye and J.A.A. Burnquist on this very short list. Burnquist was elected lieutenant governor in 1914 but then became governor after the death of Democrat Winfield Hammond in 1915. He then won the gubernatorial elections of 1916 and 1918 and eight terms as attorney general two decades later (1939-1955). Thye was similarly first elected lieutenant governor of the Gopher State and became governor after the resignation of fellow GOPer Harold Stasson in 1943. Thye won one additional full term as governor in 1944 and then two terms to the U.S. Senate (1947-1959). Twenty Minnesotans have been elected to two different statewide offices.


Respect Your Elders?

With retirement announcements this year by veteran U.S. Representatives such as 30-term Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, 20-term Democrat George Miller of California, and 18-term Republican Tom Petri of Wisconsin, it is no surprise that retirees from the 113th Congress are one of the most experienced cohorts in recent decades. Overall, these 24 exiting members of the House have served an average of 11.0 terms - the second longest tenure among retirees across the last 18 cycles since 1980. Only the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2006 had more experience, averaging 11.9 terms. (In that cycle, 10 of the 11 retiring members served at least 10 terms, with GOPer Bill Jenkins of Tennessee the lone exception at just five). Even without the aforementioned Dingell, the average length of service in the chamber of the remaining 23 retirees in 2014 is 10.2 terms - which would still be the third highest since 1980 behind the 2006 and 2012 (10.5 terms) cycles.


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