Poll shows Franken with big leads over potential opponents

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Al Franken is in “good shape for re-election” 18 months out from Election Day 2014 with approval ratings above 50 percent and a big leads over all of his potential opponents, according to the Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling.

In a survey of 712 Minnesota voters from May 17-19, the firm found that Franken drew more than 50 percent support against all of his potential GOP rivals. The poll’s margin of error is 3.7 percent.

Franken won office in 2008 with a slim 312 vote margin and Republicans have long argued that he will be vulnerable in 2014. Still, the GOP has struggled to recruit a high profile candidate to run against Franken.

So far, no Republicans have officially declared their candidacy though businessman Mike McFadden appears closest to launching a campaign. The GOP’s highest-profile potential recruits, U.S. Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen, have both declined a Senate bid.

“Al Franken has proven to be a pretty popular Senator,” said Dean Debnam, the firm’s CEO. “Add to that a relatively weak Republican bench in Minnesota and he’s looking like a clear favorite for re-election.”

PPP works for Democratic candidates (in fact, the firm polled Minnesota’s 6th District on behalf of DFLer Jim Graves and his bid against Bachmann earlier this week) but generally has a reputation for accuracy.

The firm polled Franken against McFadden, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, talk radio host Jason Lewis, state Sen. Julianne Ortman, state Sen. Julie Rosen and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. With the exception of Bachmann, most of those potential candidates had limited name recognition with the public.

Two potential candidates who pulled their names from consideration early were former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (who was defeated by Franken). PPP’s poll suggests why neither ran: both were viewed favorably by less than 40 percent of those polled.

Minnesota is not the only state where the GOP is struggling to recruit strong candidates. The AP recently reported that Republicans in Iowa and Michigan were having similar problems in the face of open seats currently occupied by Democrats.

Franken’s fellow U.S. Senator from Minnesota, DFLer Amy Klobuchar, continues to have a very high job approval rating of 61 percent. Klobuchar was re-elected by a landslide last year.

PPP says it will also release polling results about Gov. Mark Dayton tomorrow.