Who will run against Klobuchar?

Republicans in Minnesota are working to find a candidate to challenge DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar in 2012. But some of the bigger names aren’t willing to get into the race. Former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman announced yesterday that he isn’t running for the seat.

Few candidates have made appearances at GOP events. That’s typically the first step for people who want to test the waters for a possible run. Only Harold Shudlick, who lost the GOP endorsement to Mark Kennedy in 2006, was seen actively campaigning for the post at last December’s MNGOP meeting.

Many higher profile candidates are spending more time telling reporters to take their names off the 2012 list.

“I didn’t decide not to run for my House seat, just to immediately find another office to run for,” Former GOP state Rep. Laura Brod wrote to me in an e-mail. “I am not a candidate for US senate in 2012.”

Former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, who lost the GOP endorsement for governor in 2010, wrote on Twitter that he’s not running either.

“I just got off the phone with Roll Call magazine confirming that I will not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2012 or 2014.”

GOP state Sen. Julie Rosen also said she heard her name surface as a possible candidate, but she says she’s leaning against it.

“I’m honored with the recommendation but at this point, No, I would not be interested in running against Sen. Klobuchar,” Rosen said.

Another legislator, GOP state Sen. David Hann, says he’s more focused on the legislative session than a run for the U.S. Senate.

“I’m not ruling out anything but I’m not making any plan at this point because I’m not thinking about anything beyond the state budget and how to get that done.”

One person who may be considering a run in 2012 is Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. Stanek said, “no comment,” when asked if he was thinking about running against Klobuchar. Several people close to Stanek tell me, however, that he doesn’t want to take anything off the table at this point. They say Stanek is more interested in a run for governor in 2014. (Update: Stanek says he’s not interested in running in 2012).

In fact, a lot of Republicans are looking at 2014. That’s when DFL Sen. Al Franken is up for reelection. Franken barely won his seat in 2008 and as many political insiders know, his approval ratings are lower than Klobuchar’s numbers. Take for example, Ron Schutz. Here’s the response I got when I asked the attorney with Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi if he was interested in running for Senate.

“Which year?” Schutz said jokingly.

Schutz said a 2014 run for U.S. Senate is a better option for him. He says he’ll be 59 at that time and may be more willing to take another step in his career.

“I have not said ‘No way in hell will I ever do this, but a lot of circumstances would have to change before I put my hat in the ring in 2012.”

Another person mentioned as a possible candidate against Klobuchar is Bill Guidera, a lobbyist for News Corp. Guidera could not be reached for a comment.

Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton says he’s not worried that a candidate hasn’t emerged yet. He said he’s had private meetings with several potential candidates and has been “very aggressive” in finding a candidate to challenge Klobuchar.

“There are people definitely weighing their options,” Sutton said. “It’s only February of the off year. We have plenty of time. I think you’ll start to see people emerge here and bubble up in the next 60 to 90 days, and it would be a very vigorous contest.”

Sutton said he thinks a candidate will still have time to campaign and raise money if he or she announces by the summer. Sutton insisted that Klobuchar is vulnerable. He called her support “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

Klobuchar has been keeping relatively quiet on the political front as she waits to see who her potential opponent may be. She downplayed any talk of 2012 and who she may face in that election.

“We just got done with an election two months ago in Minnesota,” Klobuchar said. “I think people truly want us to focus on what we need to do. We are just done with one. I’m just focused on the people of the state of Minnesota. I’m going to keep doing that and politics will eventually rear it’s head but right now it’s time to work for Minnesota.”

One wild card in this race is GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann. Bachmann, who appears to be gearing up for a run for the White House, could make a run for the U.S. Senate instead. Bachmann is a solid fundraiser and has high name recognition. One problem for her is that a recent poll shows her well behind Klobuchar.