A conservative political scientist says Republicans shouldn't be pessimistic about their chances of defeating Al Franken's successor in the U.S. Senate and adding a seat to their ranks.
Conservatives had expressed concern last week over who might step in after Senator Franken announced his retirement "in the coming weeks" under pressure from his own party. The senator was accused of improper behavior by at least eight women. On Wednesday, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton ended the speculation when he named Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to fill Franken's seat until a special election in November.
Smith, a former VP for Planned Parenthood Minnesota-North Dakota-South Dakota, might face a Republican challenge from former Governor Tim Pawlenty – the last Republican to win a statewide election in Minnesota, in 2006 – or from former Senator Norm Coleman, even though he has said he's not interested in trying to get his old seat back.
Dr. Charles Dunn is professor emeritus of government at Clemson University.
"We know that Pawlenty has won statewide as governor – [and] we know he's generally highly regarded among Republicans," notes the political scientist. "We know Norm Coleman is very highly regarded. And just because he says he doesn't want to [run for the Senate again], doesn't mean he wouldn't if the right Republicans get behind him and push him as a candidate."
Dunn views the race next year as a real opportunity for Republicans, who he advises to take a more positive approach. "... There is a history of Republicans in Minnesota doing well," he points out. "I think somewhere there's the right candidate who could take this Senate seat."
The winner of the special election next November would serve out the remainder of Franken's term, until January 2021. Smith is expected to run at that time.