Republican U.S Rep. Erik Paulsen, who has left conflicting impressions over his potential interest in a U.S. Senate run, said on Friday he's "not taking anything off the table but it's something I'm not even thinking about right now."
Since January, Paulsen, who has been considered a top prospect to vie against Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014, has twice made comments that made listeners believe he would not wage a bid for Senate. After those comments were published, his staff quickly corrected that he was not ruling out a run.
He said Friday that those conflicting impressions were not his fault.
"I can't comment on the interpretation of others..on remarks that I've made. But my message has been consistent," said Paulsen, who said he has had no conversations with anyone at the National Republican Senatorial Committee about a possible run. "Comments get misinterpreted and my staff has had to clarify."
As it stands, Franken lacks a high-profile GOP opponent. Like Paulsen did on Friday, U.S. Rep. John Kline, through his staff, has left open the possibility of a Senate run. Republicans also currently lack a high-profile opponent to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who plans to run for re-election next year.
On Friday, Paulsen made clear that any Republican would have a tough time beating either Democrat. But, he said, that can be overcome.
"Running statewide as a Republican in Minnesota is always a challenge," Paulsen said. "Whoever ends up being our nominee will end up raising quite a lot of funds. Those races will be competitive."
"You've got to have a lot of things come together to be able to raise money, to be able to have grassroots support and have all that come together at once when you crescendo an election," he said.
He said that his party has some work to do but is doing that work.
"You are seeing some new messaging coming from our leaders in Washington, which I think is right on, in terms of understanding that we need to connect with the broader electorate, to making sure that people and residents understand that there are great Republican ideals and we can actually help people make a difference in their lives and we need to communicate that in a lot better fashion. And that's why you are going to see forward progress on a lot of different issues, I think bipartisanly," Paulsen said.
He said that Minnesota Republican Party's $1.5 million in debt is a "factor" for Republicans. When asked, Paulsen said would not be involved in the April election of a new state party chair.
Paulsen was at the Minnesota Capitol to talk about his long-standing opposition to the medical device tax, contained in the health care overhaul. He, along with Democratic U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, have been leading the fight against the tax in Washington, DC.
All three Minnesota members of Congress rank high in their donations from medical supply companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Paulsen is number one in contributions from the industry. Klobuchar is number three in the Senate and Franken ranks as number 12.
Asked if those donations have any connection to his interest in the tax, Paulsen said: "No, none whatsoever."