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Media projects Franken wins

ST. PAUL -- Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken is no laughing matter to Minnesota Republicans as major news networks projected him to win his re-election contest Tuesday night less than five minutes after polls closed.

With about 4 percent of the state's precincts reporting, Franken held a 52 percent to 45 percent lead over Republican Mike McFadden.

National news organizations base projections on exit polls and pre-election polling, which in the past month showed the former "Saturday Night Live" writer and comedian up from 9 points to 15 points.

Franken supporters immediately began congratulating him, even if the candidate himself did not declare victory.

"After a successful first term, we expect Al Franken to play an even more active national progressive leadership role ... for big ideas like holding Wall Street accountable, reducing student debt and expanding Social Security benefits," said Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, a gun control advocate after being shot, said: "He has been a steady, responsible voice for laws that would make our communities safer from gun violence and has reflected the reasonable views of his constituents by calling for common-sense laws like expanded background checks."

McFadden and Franken were competing for a six-year Senate term that pays $174,000 a year.

Franken surprised many when he won the 2008 election, after months of recounting and legal battles, by 312 votes over incumbent Norm Coleman.

McFadden, a first-time candidate, tried to tie Franken to President Barack Obama, whose support has slipped since being re-elected two years ago. Franken, meanwhile, continually talked about his history of working with Republicans to get things done.

The two showed a typical liberal-vs.-conservative matchup since McFadden won the Republican nomination in the Aug. 12 primary election. They only debated three times since then, but their campaigns continually distributed news releases and emails critical of the other.

Franken raised nearly $30 million in the campaign cycle as of mid-October, with McFadden coming in at less than $7 million. But outside groups spent lots of money in the race, too.

The incumbent was critical of McFadden's investment banker career, saying that his company headquarters moved to Bermuda and the company helped other firms leave the United States to avoid taxes. McFadden, on leave from his job for the campaign, disputed the charge, saying that he was more like a real estate agent who sold businesses.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.