At least for now, popular Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar doesn't appear to have a very big fight on her hands to win re-election in 2012.
Her challengers include former state Rep. Dan Severson, who narrowly lost his last election bid when he ran against incumbent Mark Ritchie for Secretary of State in 2010, and Joe Arwood, a city council member from St. Bonifacius who just Monday announced his candidacy. Neither offers much in the way of name recognition, and a win over Klobuchar at this point would more than likely be considered a major upset.
But, as Southwest Minnesota State University political science professor David Sturrock said, anything can happen in any given election.
"The last three election cycles in this country have proven that there is no such thing as a sure thing," Sturrock said. "There have been Republicans and Democrats that both got upset - upsets that nobody saw coming."
If Klobuchar does get upset in 2012, Marty Seifert won't be the one who does it. The former state representative on Monday reiterated his preferences to stay in the private sector and said he has no desire to pull up roots and live in Washington.
"I?really don't have an interest in Washington in general,"?Seifert said. "It's a different animal. I have been asked by national and state people to do it, but I have turned them all down."
With or without Seifert in the mix, Sturrock said an upset of Klobuchar - or any incumbent for that matter - is possible because the voting public has, by and large, grown frustrated to the point where they might be more willing to cast a vote for a relative unknown if it means unseating an incumbent linked to the country's current economic slide.
"Voters are more skeptical, more critical, more willing to take a chance on a new face than they have been in a long time," Sturrock said. "Both parties have taken advantage of that in recent years. There are lot of opportunities for Republicans to score more victories in 2012 that maybe aren't obvious right now, and there's some potential for Democrats to do the same."
Sturrock thinks Klobuchar's seat provides one of those opportunities for a Republican to step in because the nomination is so wide open with only Severson and Arwood having announced plans to run. But, he said, anyone looking to unseat Klobuchar needs some sort of foundation in order to mount a serious challenge.
"It's easier to put on a serious campaign if you have a base, if you have some name recognition and you come in with experience and some ability to raise money," said Sturrock. "There are Republicans who want to run in 2014 for governor or senator who aren't running in 2012, and at least one of them might realize there's an undervalued opportunity here. In 2012 I suspect one or more of those candidates will figure that out and make a run for it."
Seifert, out of politics since an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 2010, was the House District 21A Rep. from 1997-2010 and one-time House Majority Whip and House Minority Leader. A Marshall resident, Seifert, who was named executive director of the Avera Marshall Foundation in September, said he probably has some name recognition "left over" from his days as a House representative and gubernatorial candidate and won't rule out running for office in the future, but as far as he's concerned, 2012 is not an option.
"I'm enjoying life right now," he said. "I know the party is certainly looking for candidates, but it's not something I'm gonna do. It's a different animal; it's expensive and a lot of work."