WASHINGTON – Minnesota Republicans are looking for a candidate to take on U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014.
They can count out former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, who was narrowly defeated by Franken in 2008. In the past, Coleman has kept open the possibility of staging a rematch against Franken.
Coleman first ruled out a bid in an interview with the National Journal.
In a follow-up interview with MPR News, Coleman did leave open the possibility of challenging Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014.
“I would certainly love to be focused more in Minnesota but I haven’t made any decision about my political future other than making it very clear I’m not going to be running for Senate in 2014,” said Coleman.
Coleman talked up the prospects of U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen and John Kline as potential Republican challengers to Franken.
“If Paulsen were to say he was going to run for United States Senate, that race would be competitive in the blink of an eye,” said Coleman. “If Congressman Kline said he was going to run for Senate in 2014, I have no doubt that race would be listed as a competitive race.”
Paulsen has sent mixed signals about his interest in running for Senate, telling some interviewers he’s not ruling out a bid, while expressing a more definitive “no” in an interview with MPR News last week.
Kline has not ruled out a Senate bid and is “keeping all options on the table for 2014,” according to a spokesman. That said, Kline has accumulated significant seniority within the U.S. House and has a comfortable perch as chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee.
Since leaving the Senate, Coleman has become a lobbyist in Washington with the international law firm Hogan Lovells. More importantly for prospective candidates such as Paulsen and Kline, Coleman also chairs several important outside spending groups, the American Action Network and the Congressional Leadership Fund. In last year’s elections, the two groups spent more than $20 million to help Republican candidates nationwide.
Coleman criticized his successor, saying that Franken had been an “invisible” presence in Minnesota in contrast with the state’s senior Senator, Amy Klobuchar.