So what was supposed to be little drama on the Democrat side of the race for Al Franken's former U.S. Senate seat has suddenly become an interesting sideshow.
A former White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush who is a prominent critic of President Donald Trump announced his run for Senate as a Democrat in Minnesota on Monday.
Speaking at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Richard Painter announced that he is seeking to unseat Sen. Tina Smith, the Democrat who was appointed last year to the seat left behind by former Sen. Al Franken, who resigned following allegations that he touched women inappropriately.
Painter is currently a law professor at the University of Minnesota, but as of late has been extremely vocal about his objections to Trump and the current state of the Republican Party. His Twitter feed is full of digs at the President and he can often be spotted on cable television criticizing the administration.
The first midterm election in the first term of a sitting U.S. president is often difficult for that POTUS's political party. It looks to be even that much more formidable for Republicans in 2018 given Trump's approval rating remains underwater. However, Minnesota's prospects for the GOP are actually advantageous given that two House races (CDs 1 & 8, both currently occupied by Dems) are open seats which both went overwhelmingly for Trump in November 2016. Even DFL chair Ken Martin acknowledges that going after Trump this cycle in Minnesota may not necessarily be the best course of action.
Trump’s voters are “pretty much solid behind him, at least in Minnesota — they’re still sticking with him,” said Martin, the state DFL chair. “A lot of [the national Democratic Party’s] messaging has been anti-Trump, but that’s not a winning strategy in this state.”
So while Painter's bullishness on impeaching Trump may play well with the DFL metrocrats and others within the party's base, it would be a detriment to his statewide campaign if he were somehow able to defeat Smith for the Democrat nomination. With that in mind, those of us who support GOP candidate (and, for purposes of full disclosure, my friend) Karin Housley to prevail in this race may well have a more ample opportunity for victory if Painter gets the Dem nod.
Even if Painter doesn't prevail on the DFL side, the fact he's taking this to the August primary may well force the Dems to spend money on a race which wasn't even up for election a mere six months ago. And the less they have to spend on their vulnerable incumbents in states like West Virginia, Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri, the better chance the GOP has to hang on to their scant Senate majority (51-49). And that's regardless of what happens with Minnesota in November.