Minnesota businessman Mike McFadden (R) thinks his campaign for U.S. Senate will resemble the 2012 presidential race -- insofar as Democrats will take aim at his business background as they did with Mitt Romney.
"They're going to try to do to me what they tried to do to Mitt Romney," McFadden told reporters Wednesday afternoon in Washington. "I think the demonization of business that took place in 2012 was reckless."
McFadden, 49, stepped away from his role as co-CEO of the investment bank Lazard Middle Market to try to unseat Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). He's casting himself as a Republican in the mold of Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and repeatedly talks about his commitment to "limited but effective government." His pet issue is education and he takes issue with Franken's vote for the federal health-care law. McFadden favors repealing the law and replacing it "with a better system," he said.
Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" cast member, was elected in 2008. He narrowly defeated Republican Norm Coleman in a race that went to a recount. Polls show he is in sound political shape headed into November, and his seat isn't viewed as a top target for Republicans.
But first-time candidate McFadden is upbeat about his chances. He said he thinks his experience outside government trumps political expertise that career politicians accumulate. He repeatedly underscored a willingness to work with the other party.
"I think part of it is focusing on issues where hopefully you can build bipartisanship," said McFadden.
McFadden wants to talk about fiscal issues much more than he wants to discuss social issues. He said, "I don't know why we're fixated on these issues when people want a job that's going to pay them more."
The Republican said while he personally believes that marriage is "a sacrament" between a man and a woman, he is "fine" with Minnesota's decision to legalize gay marriage. On abortion, McFadden said he is "pro-life, but my focus is on getting kids educated."
McFadden does not have the Republican field to himself. State Sen. Julianne Ortman, state Rep. Jim Abeler and St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg are also in the running, as is bison farmer Monti Moreno.
But McFadden has turned heads by raising big bucks. He had $1.7 million in the bank at the end of 2013. That's caught the attention of Democrats, who are already going after him. The state Democratic Party regularly sends out news releases singling him out for criticism.
McFadden is good friends from law school with Alaska Senate candidate Dan Sullivan (R). And his son Conor McFadden, a senior at Stanford University who was on the football team, was profiled by ESPN in the fall.
As for Franken's comedic chops? McFadden doesn't think they translate to the Senate.
"I don't think he's funny as a senator," the Republican said.