A challenge to Al Franken?

Minnesota has a history of electing some strange politicians at times, no matter which party you’re from. But few of their notably quirky elections could match the time they sent Al Franken to the Senate. Is this notable era of political novelty going to come to an end?

A wealthy Minneapolis finance executive appears poised to enter the race against first-term Democratic Sen. Al Franken.

In an email earlier this week, a private real estate company solicited assistance in finding a campaign headquarters for Lazard Middle Market co-CEO Mike McFadden, a Republican who has said publicly that he is considering a statewide campaign.

This isn’t a race where anyone should assume that the incumbent is an iron clad lock. In fact, it was one of the longest disputed elections in recent memory, what with ballots being found in the trunks of cars, abandoned warehouses and Martian UFOs every time they tried to register a final result. The state has a notably purple bent, and can always go either way. So who is the person who may be making the run?

As the head of a financial services firm — Lazard Middle Market is a division of the international firm Lazard — McFadden may be able to kick-start a campaign with personal funds.

That could be a big help to Republicans, who have not yet landed a powerhouse recruit against Franken and would very likely welcome a financial windfall from a candidate in a state where federal politics is expensive.

In some respects, McFadden looks on paper like other Republicans who have successfully run for statewide office in the Obama era: In neighboring Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson made the leap directly from the private sector to the Senate on the strength of an anti-spending campaign message and the prodigious use of his personal fortune.

It’s early enough that this obviously won’t be the only entry, but it may not be a bad one. The exit question has to be… is he good enough? Is he smart enough? Will they really, really like him?

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