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Republican Joe Fraser of Minnetrista has never run for political office, yet the retired Naval intelligence officer and business executive is vying to oust Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a popular incumbent seeking a fourth term.

It's Klobuchar's first race since her unsuccessful presidential bid in 2020, and Fraser sees an opening for a Republican to capitalize on issues where he believes she's vulnerable, such as the economy, the U.S. border with Mexico and the war in Gaza.

"I see really an absence of leadership in the chambers and Senate when I'm looking around at a world in crisis," Fraser said in a recent interview. "I decided to leverage the experience that I have, and hopefully be able to bring that to the chamber as a voice for Minnesota."

He's also critical of what he views as her lack of support for mining in northern Minnesota and said she's not a vocal advocate for Minnesota jobs. Klobuchar's campaign notes she's been endorsed by the steelworkers union and is a "strong advocate for trade enforcement to stop Chinese steel dumping."

Fraser plans to court voters in the suburbs, especially in Hennepin County, and sees a path to win voters in the swing Second District and open Third District.

Republicans hold their state convention starting Thursday, which former President Donald Trump is set to attend, and the party is expected to make its Senate endorsement Saturday. Fraser is one of four candidates seeking party backing. The other three are ex-basketball player Royce White, who ran unsuccessfully in a Republican primary for Rep. Ilhan Omar's seat, Gary Coson and Patrick Munro. None of those three has raised any money, putting Fraser in a good position to win the party's backing.

But Republicans haven't won a statewide race since the early 2000s. Klobuchar has kept the seat blue since former Sen. Mark Dayton flipped it when he beat former Republican Sen. Rod Grams in 2000. And she beat her last two GOP opponents, in 2012 and 2018, while winning more than 60% of the vote.

Republican and nonpartisan political observers alike say it is going to be extremely difficult for Fraser or any other Republican to take on Klobuchar, who raised nearly $2.2 million in the latest fundraising quarter and had $5.8 million in cash heading into April, according to her latest FEC filing.

Fraser raised just $45,000 since he entered the race in late January and entered April with only $43,900 in cash to compete against Klobuchar.

"I'm not independently wealthy," Fraser said. "And I think that's an important thing because that makes this a much more grassroots approach."

He also has not been on the air with any statewide advertising to get his name in front of voters.

"Having that [lack] of money against an incumbent United States senator, is just a really, really big hole and, that's not a dollar figure that's going to make the case to anyone that this is a campaign that can win," Michael Brodkorb, former deputy chair of the state Republican Party, said of Fraser's fundraising.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has ranked Minnesota as solidly Democrat this cycle. Both parties have their sights set on Senate races in the battleground states of Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere.

"It is extremely hard for a challenger without having served in elected office before, without name recognition, to raise money running against a popular incumbent," said Kathryn Pearson, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota. "Republicans across the country are going to give to Republican Senate candidates with a better chance of winning in elections that are going to be rated as really competitive. And this is not one of them."

Fraser said he has the support of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and anticipates that Minnesota's four Republican members of Congress will get behind his campaign after the convention.

"Polls have consistently shown that President Trump and Joe Biden are locked in a tight race in Minnesota. We're keeping a close eye on the Senate race as political outsider and American hero Joe Fraser continues to build support," NRSC Spokesman Philip Letsou said in a statement.

Fraser is set to take the convention stage just a day after Trump, who is actively trying to win Minnesota. It's unclear if Trump will back Fraser, who said he voted for him twice and endorsed him for president in February, but it would be a boost to his campaign if he's able to secure the most coveted endorsement in Republican politics.

"If he chooses to endorse me, I would gladly take it, we haven't communicated at all. I know he's coming. And I know the reason why he's coming is because he is polling very well here in Minnesota," Fraser said. "There's an appetite for change. People are frustrated, and they're angry with what they see is the establishment forgetting who they work for."

Fraser said he has fundraisers lined up and hopes a GOP endorsement this weekend will "give more legitimacy" to his campaign.

Asked to comment on Fraser's campaign, Klobuchar's camp did not seem worried.

"In the last Congress, she distinguished herself as the senator with the most bipartisan bills, and she ranked third for passing bills into law," campaign spokesperson Ben Hill said in a statement. "She won her fight to force the pharmaceutical companies to lower prescription drug prices, and just this week her bipartisan legislation to support firefighters who develop service-related cancers is expected to pass the Judiciary Committee."