TIME: Franken May Get Last Laugh In Minnesota Senate Race

11/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If this were a normal election year, Norm Coleman probably wouldn't have much trouble winning a second term representing Minnesota in the United States Senate. Granted, Coleman is a Republican, and Minnesota tends to be a Democratic state. But both classifications are deceptive.

A former popular mayor of St. Paul, Coleman was a Democrat before he switched parties in 1996, and he remains a fairly moderate Republican today. And for all its history as a bastion of liberalism, Minnesota morphed into a quirky swing state in the mid-1990s, bestowing statewide office to politicians of every stripe, from doctrinaire conservatives (Rod Grams) and old-school liberals (Paul Wellstone) to flaky, funky former professional wrestlers (Jessie Ventura). Al Gore and John Kerry both beat George W. Bush in Minnesota, but by surprisingly slim margins. And in the 2006 mid-terms, when Democrats were knocking off incumbent Republicans across the country, Minnesotans dared to be different by re-electing their Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty.

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