We are moving the Minnesota Senate race from Safe Democrat to Democrat Favored, but readers should not make too much of the changed rating.
The change reflects the broad national environment and Minnesota’s generally competitive nature. A national anti-President Barack Obama wave certainly could threaten incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken, and Franken’s 2008 victory — in a good political environment for Democrats — was razor-close.
The new rating says little about Republican challenger Mike McFadden’s candidacy, other than the fact that the wealthy businessman appears to have considerable personal resources that he can sink into the race if he wishes.
McFadden continues to run cutesy videos (and now a TV ad) that focus on his coaching to introduce himself to voters, while Franken raises money and generally acts as if he has no opponent. Instead, the freshman Democrat has run TV spots focusing on issues and his performance in D.C.
Franken showed $5 million in the bank at the end of June, while McFadden had about $2 million. But the Republican had not put in personal money at that point.
Polling in the race is spotty and not particularly helpful for McFadden. Franken almost certainly starts with a very comfortable lead.
At this point, I see little reason to believe that McFadden will beat Franken — and I'm skeptical about the prediction made by anonymous observers in a July 7 Roll Call piece that the contest is likely to be "a 2-point race by Labor Day." (The race will close, of course, as McFadden spends money.)
But it’s also true that, based entirely on fundamentals, McFadden’s long-shot prospects seem closer to Ed Gillespie’s in Virginia and Scott Brown’s in New Hampshire than to GOP chances in Illinois against Richard J. Durbin or in New Jersey against Cory Booker (both of which we have as Safe for Democrats).
For that reason, and for only that reason, we are moving Minnesota to Democrat Favored.