The Washington Post

Senate Republicans get another break

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questions Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor during confirmation hearings in 2009. Minnesota Republicans hope their newly endorsed Senate candidate, Mike McFadden, will be able to defeat Franken in November. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

Republicans got another break Saturday in their quest to retake the Senate, with Minnesota Senate candidate Mike McFadden receiving the state Republican party's endorsement.

The endorsement matters much more in Minnesota than in other states. Candidates, including McFadden's top two opponents, often pledge not to run in the primary if they don't win the endorsement. In other words, McFadden's win probably averts a competitive primary for the GOP (though underfunded state Rep. Jim Abeler might still run against him).

On top of that, McFadden, a businessman and self-funder, was the GOP establishment favorite in the race. Republicans hope he can make a lower-tier race against Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) competitive.

McFadden defeated St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg and state Sen. Julianne Ortman, among others, after 10 rounds of voting over two days. Dahlberg led for much of the balloting. Ortman notably had the endorsement of Sarah Palin.

McFadden did not pledge to abide by the endorsement -- something that often alienates party activists and hurts one's chances -- but won it anyway.

The GOP needs to win six seats to retake the Senate. Minnesota is not considered a top target, but it is a competitive state in which Republicans retain some hope of knocking off Franken, who was elected by just 312 votes in 2008.

Republicans have landed big-name recruits in several lower-tier races such as Minnesota's, hoping to put those seats into play. McFadden is not considered a top-tier recruit, but he has far more funding and has carved a more moderate profile than his GOP opponents.

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

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