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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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Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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