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No surprise: Klobuchar takes U.S. Senate victory

ST. PAUL -- Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar earned Minnesota's first 2012 election night win when news services declared her a re-election victor soon after the polls closed.

The triumph over Republican Kurt Bills came as no surprise after she held huge leads in recent polls and one poll showed more than half of Minnesotans did know even recognize Bills' name. Bills struggled to raise money, while Klobuchar put millions in her campaign treasury.

Some U.S. House races were expected to be close, none more so than the 8th Congressional District in the northeastern quarter of Minnesota that featured first-term GOP U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan. Television commercials about the race, both by the candidates and by outside groups, overwhelmed Twin Cities and Duluth viewers for weeks.

The Klobuchar-Bills race never appeared close.

Bills, 42, often blamed Klobuchar, 52, for lack of budget progress in Washington and said she has not been a leader. At every opportunity, he said the country faces a "fiscal cliff" at the end of this year because Congress has not approved a budget. He predicted a fiscal calamity if a budget does not pass.

Klobuchar, however, said she was one of the senators who insisted on a debt commission that eventually laid groundwork for the Budget Control Act. She said that law is a framework for a budget, which she said needs to be a combination of budget cuts and raising taxes on rich Americans.

The first-term Democratic senator often is mentioned as a potential presidential candidate.

Senators and representatives make $174,000 a year. Senators serve six years, House members two years.

Freelance writers Andrew Tellijohn and Martin Owings contributed to this story.