McFadden aims to spoil Franken’s hopes for easier Senate path

Published 10:14 am Tuesday, November 4, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — Democratic Sen. Al Franken hoped Tuesday to win a second term in the U.S. Senate more comfortably than his first.

Franken’s victory by a mere 312 votes in a 2008 recount made him an alluring target for Republicans, who hoped to seize control of the Senate. But political newcomer Mike McFadden, despite an energetic campaign that traversed Minnesota several times, trailed in polls throughout the final weeks of the campaign.

Republican-aligned national groups chose to invest their millions in states elsewhere, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s early promise of “aggressive spending” for McFadden went unfulfilled.

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McFadden, 50, took a leave of absence from his investment banking firm, Lazard Middle Market, to challenge Franken. He emerged from a brutally long Republican convention with a surprise endorsement, and cruised through an August primary.

McFadden attacked Franken as being too closely tied to President Barack Obama, frequently citing a study that found Franken voted with the president 97 percent of the time.

“I’m running against somebody who has been a rubber stamp for the president,” McFadden said last week amid a last-minute tour across the state.

McFadden also tried to use his own career to bolster an image of a “problem solver” who could sort out Congress. Franken tried to blunt that claim with a barrage of attack ads that painted McFadden instead as a ruthless businessman whose deals cost people jobs or avoided U.S. taxes.

Franken, 63, took the same low-key approach to his campaign as he has his five years in the Senate, highlighting his work on policy issues like the passage of a five-year farm bill and the need to attack runaway college debt. He also continually played up his work across the aisle, name-dropping Republican senators.