For the first time since he announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate last summer, Mike McFadden held a news conference yesterday and took questions from reporters.
But by and large, the man who many believe has the inside track to becoming Al Franken's Republican challenger in November didn't offer satisfying answers.
For instance, asked if he stands with Senate Republicans who blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill meant to close the pay gap between men and women, McFadden wouldn't give a straight answer.
"I believe it is the wrong question," McFadden said. "These are election-year tricks. It's politics as usual." (Listen to the entire press conference here.)
Asked whether he supports legislation that would give fetuses the same rights as adults starting at the moment of conception, McFadden said, "My focus is not going to be on polarizing issues." He characterized himself as "pro-life" but said he's okay with abortions in some cases.
About the minimum wage, he said it's "a very important safeguard" but declined to say whether he supports raising it or not. He blasted MNsure but wouldn't say whether he thought Minnesota would've been better off relying on the federal health care exchange instead.
Pressed about his reluctance to outline clear policy positions, McFadden said he thinks he's been adequately specific during his campaign.
"What I think is really important with politicians and with leaders [is] you understand their overriding philosophies -- how do they make decisions?" he said. "And so I've been very specific in this campaign as to how I make decisions."
McFadden has already been taking a lot of heat for not making it clear where he stands on the issues, and the DFL promptly issued a release calling yesterday's press conference "A train wreck you have to see to believe."
We reached out McFadden spokesman Tom Erickson and asked if he had any response to the DFL's "train wreck" criticism.
"The only train wreck we're aware of is the Obamacare rollout that kicked 140,000 Minnesotans off their insurance plans and will reduce employment in Minnesota by the equivalent of 50,000 jobs," Erickson says. "The DFL's criticism begs the question, when was the last time Al Franken held a press conference in Minnesota and stood up to the scrutiny of the media?"
(Update -- Franken spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff got in touch and said Franken has actually done 15 media availabilities in Minnesota this year alone. On Tuesday, he participated in a news conference at the U.S. Capitol.)
McFadden, a businessman with no history in politics, reported having $1.7 million cash on hand for his campaign earlier this year, an amount that dramatically exceeds the other GOP contenders, including MNGOP Sen. Julianne Ortman. There's widespread speculation he'll compete in a Republican primary if he doesn't get the MNGOP endorsement, so his vagueness likely reflects an effort to steer clear of controversy for as long as politically possible.
To watch video of McFadden's presser, click to page two.