With Republicans in Washington thus far successfully fending off insurgent tea party challengers in competitive races, odds makers are now indicating that the GOP has a better than even chance of retaking the upper chamber of Congress in November.
President Barack Obama’s sinking job approval rating is not helping boost Democrats’ chances. Speaking anonymously to The Hill, one Democratic Senator said Obama’s “unpopularity” is troubling. “It’s a tense time,” the source said.
It is with this backdrop that Obama descended on Minnesota on Thursday where freshman Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is seeking reelection. Franken has spent the last six years maintaining as low a profile in Washington as possible, shying away from national press and casting himself as a lawmaker exclusively focused on the interests of his constituents.
Obama won Minnesota by 10 points in 2008 and 8 points in 2012. With one exception, no public opinion survey has shown Franken leading his likely GOP opponent, businessman Mike McFadden, by less than 10 points in over a year. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight indicates that Franken has a 90 percent chance of being reelected in the decidedly blue North Star State.
And yet, Franken in taking no chances. On Friday, CNN reported that the comedian-turned-politician is avoiding being caught on camera in proximity with the Democratic President of the United States.
CNN anchor John King reported on Friday that both Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Franken cancelled a scheduled appearance with Obama and a flight on Air Force One. He noted that both Senators intend to be in Minnesota, but appear to be going out of their way to avoid Obama.
“Is the president that toxic?” King asked his panel. “Are they that worried about Minnesota that they’re trying to over-manage this?”
The Washington Post’s Jackie Kucinich supposed that Franken was merely trying to cover his bases. “He doesn’t want to cozy up to the president and then pay for it later,” she said.
“It’s the bluest of blue states,” King marveled. “If Al Franken will not stand next to President Obama in this election year, it tells you everything you need to know about Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina.”
Franken spokesman Ed Shelleby said on Thursday that the senator had to cancel a flight on the presidential airplane and a joint town hall in order to cast a vote to confirm new ambassador to Iraq. Shelleby added, however, that the senator expects to be in Minnesota today to attend an economic policy speech by the president.