WASHINGTON - When asked twice in the same interview this week by MPR News whether he was considering a bid to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014, Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen said "no."
Now he's saying "maybe."
According to a report in The Hill newspaper published Thursday, Paulsen said, "I am planning on just continuing to represent my district right now. I haven't ruled anything out. But just staying focused on my district."
Paulsen's office argued that his comments to MPR on Wednesday were taken out of context. In the spirit of transparency, here is the audio of the entire exchange:
After Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills performed extremely poorly in this past election against DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Republicans have been anxious to find a strong candidate to take on Franken. The first-term senator won his seat by a razor-thin margin in 2008 that led to a lengthy recount that lasted into 2009.
Paulsen, who began his third term in the U.S. House this week, is considered very friendly with the business community, particularly Minnesota's medical device industry, and has become the strongest fundraisers in the state's U.S. House delegation behind U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, raising more than $3 million the latest two year election cycle.
With U.S. Senate races now regularly costing tens of millions of dollars, candidates frequently begin campaigning far in advance of the election in order to raise the cash they need to compete.
However, Franken is a also very strong fundraiser, raising more than $3 million in the past two years. His political committee has more than $1 million in the bank as the campaign ramps up.
There's at least one sign that someone in Paulsen's camp has thought about a Senate bid: the domain name www.paulsenforsenate.com redirects to Paulsen's main campaign website.