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Businessman Mike McFadden to challenge Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has drawn his first major GOP challenger, with businessman Mike McFadden launching his campaign Wednesday.

In a slickly produced Web video, McFadden and his daughter talk about his life story and their family (with plenty of self-deprecating humor about how his wife is better than him).

McFadden makes no mention of the Senate race or Franken in the video, but instead talks about reforming education and tackling the national debt.

McFadden, 48, is the co-CEO of Lazard Middle Market, a financial services firm, and is believed to have the funds to partially self-fund his campaign.

That should be helpful in a race that looks uphill for the Republican Party. Generally, national parties seek out wealthy candidates to fund their campaigns in second-tier races. It's not clear at this point whether McFadden will self-fun and to what extent.

Franken has solid approval numbers, though he won by just 312 votes in 2008 and Minnesota remains a competitive — though blue-leaning — state.

Big-name GOP elected officials — including former senator Norm Coleman and Reps. John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Michele Bachmann — have all passed on both the state's Senate and gubernatorial race.

The remaining candidates and prospective candidates come largely from the lower office and the business community. Businessman Scott Honour and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, for example, are so far the leading GOP candidates against Gov. Mark Dayton (D).

While self-funding is helpful, a business record can be tough to run on -- specifically when it involves job losses and mergers, as McFadden's does. Democrats signaled quickly that they will make an issue of McFadden's business record.

"Minnesotans should know that Mike McFadden is really just Minnesota's Mitt Romney," said Carrie Lucking, the executive director of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a left-leaning group.

A recent poll showed Franken leading McFadden by 15 points, 51 percent to 36 percent. But McFadden is so far unknown to Minnesota voters.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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