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Political watchers are already shifting their attention to the 2008 election even though the 2006 campaign ended less than two weeks ago. In the world of politics, two years can seem like a a nano-second when it comes to setting up an election team, building grassroots support and finding the ever important financial backers.
The latest candidate to say he's not ruling out an election bid is Dean Johnson, the outgoing majority leader of the Minnesota Senate. He told Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning host Kerri Miller that he isn't ruling anything out.
"I may be open to some prospects of running in '08," Johnson said on the program.
"Running against Norm Coleman?" Miller asked.
"That's a possibility," Johnson acknowledged.
It may seem odd that Johnson is thinking about climbing the political ladder just 10 days after he lost his re-election bid. Republican Joe Gimse won the Willmar seat in a hard-fought and sometimes nasty race. Gimse received support from groups opposed to gay marriage and abortion. They blamed Johnson for blocking votes by the full senate on legislation they supported in the last legislative session.
Despite his defeat, Johnson says he's being encouraged by some supporters to run.
"Much of my mail and phone calls have hinted or asked about those situations and possibilities for the future and I'm not going to close the door. I'm not making an announcement, I'm not forming an exploratory committee, we're in the dust settling period of Thanksgiving, but 23 months from now there's another election," Johnson said.
Johnson is joining a crowded field of Democrats who are thinking about a possible senate run. Other potential contenders include comedian Al Franken, attorney Mike Ciresi, Congresswoman Betty McCollum and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Some political analysts say Democrat Amy Klobuchar's convincing U.S. Senate victory over Republican Mark Kennedy is evidence that Coleman is beatable.
"I think a lot of them are encouraged to think that Minnesota is a state where Democrats can do very well again," said Joe Kunkel, a political scientist at Minnesota State University Mankato. He says the Democrats strong gains in the most recent election have made them confident that they can continue to make gains two years from now. But he warns that the political landscape may be quite different in two years.
"The conditions that will exist at the time of the election are completely unknown to us," Kunkel said.
Sen. Coleman has also been preparing for a competitive reelection campaign. He told reporters last month that he is probably the most vulnerable Republican senator running in 2008.
"Minnesota is a very, very tough state. It's a close state. We're kind of right in the middle," he said. "So if you look at simply who's up, I probably have the smallest margin of victory of any of my colleagues who seats who will be up in '08."
Coleman may have some advantages for his re-election bid. The 2008 Republican National Convention will take place in St. Paul just two months before the election. That could fire up conservatives in the state. Coleman is also a prodigious fundraiser. That means he can afford a strong campaign staff and have money ready to run TV ads. The big question is which Democrat will appear on the 2008 general election ballot against him.