Minnesota Senate Update

Captain Ed has some thoughts on the latest round of Minnesota polling, this time from a credible poll. SurveyUSA’s latest poll shows Pawlenty trouncing Democratic challenger Mike Hatch, and Mark Kennedy within striking distance of Amy Klobuchar.

I think SurveyUSA’s results are fairly accurate. I don’t think that Hatch has a chance in hell against the relatively popular Pawlenty, who’s polling at a healthy 50%. Pawlenty leads in nearly every demographic, even with minorities. Pawlenty has the kind of common touch that makes a successful politician, and while he’s had his rough moments (“health impact fee”?! Puh-lease!) his tenure in office has been a success for the state of Minnesota. Even if the people who still think the Independence Party matters all defect to Hatch, Pawlenty’s lead is still strong.

Mark Kennedy is only beginning to campaign, and he’s going to have a tough race against Klobuchar. Being 5 points down isn’t a great place to be, but that indicates that this race is still within striking distance. At the end of the day Klobuchar is running against Bush, despite the fact that his name isn’t on the ballot. Klobuchar’s position on the war, supporting a quick exit, but not a timeline for withdrawal, is the same as Kennedy’s (and everyone else’s for that matter). Kennedy will have a very tough race, but he can certainly still win.

One interesting point of commonality between the Minnesota Poll and the SurveyUSA poll is that Kennedy has a healthy lead in the 18-34 demographic, which is traditionally a Democratic-leaning demographic group. I’m not sure what the explanation for this is, although I suspect that the fact that Minnesota has produced a bumper crop of young Republican political activists in recent years may have something to do with it.

The Democrats are hoping that dissatisfaction with Bush will lead them to victory in Minnesota. However, the Republican Party of Minnesota has the organization to win, and the demographics of some of these races don’t seem very good for the Democrats. Much of it will come down to a combination of organization and drive – if Republican voters are motivated, the GOP could sweep Minnesota. If the Democrats prove to be more motivated (and Bush hatred is a powerful motivating force for them) Kennedy could be in deep trouble.

We’ll see how things work out as Election Day draws closer.

11 thoughts on “Minnesota Senate Update

  1. The DSCC released a poll yesterday showing Klobuchar with a 16-point lead, more along the lines of the Minnesota Poll’s 19-point lead. Both are inflated, but the real-world margin would seem to be in between SUSA’s numbers and those of the DSCC/MN Poll (There’s no way Pawlenty’s leading Hatch by 16 points….just like there’s no way that the 18-29 group that voted helped Kerry beat Bush in MN in 2004 are now providing 2-1 margins for Bush ally Mark Kennedy).

    Klobuchar got the television ad wars rolling last month and is now airing her second well-produced advertisement while Kennedy has yet to hit the airwaves. These ads have likely given Klobuchar a bounce and could very well expand that bounce until Kennedy responds in kind. I’d be surprised if Klobuchar wins this by more than three points given the geographic battle lines that both candidates represent. But again, if Klobuchar wins 60% in Hennepin County (as I’m strongly betting that she will), Kennedy can’t win no matter how well he does in Shakopee, Forest Lake, and Elk River.

    As for Pawlenty vs. Hatch, I have no doubt Pawlenty is leading and likely dominates the suburbs where elections are won and lost. But don’t fool yourself…..Hatch is not gonna underperform Roger Moe’s 2002 performance and the SUSA poll would indicate. I’m seeing the early signs of a strong campaign by Hatch, as his signs already dot the landscape of strategic rural swing areas. I put on hundreds of miles in populist west-central Minnesota (Morris, Montevideo) this weekend, places where DFL gubernatorial candidates usually run strong and where the man-of-the-people Hatch is likely to play far better than the LGA-cutting suburban yuppie Pawlenty (keep in mind, even alot of small business owners are likely to be cross with Pawlenty in these parts, with his “health impact fee” malpractice sending tobacco customers into the Dakotas). I talked to another guy who saw scores of Hatch signs along the Mississippi River between Winona and Bloomington as well. Such an early and aggressive push to saturate swing areas with low-cost campaign signs strikes me as a political masterstroke, giving Hatch some psychological momentum in areas where he’ll have to do well to offset Pawlenty’s suburban advantage.

    Hatch won a fairly close Attorney General’s race in 1998 largely because of his strength in rural Minnesota. Pawlenty has precious few accomplishments to boast about (his JOBZ program has mostly been a bust) outside of the suburban enclaves who were spared from higher taxes at the expense of every state program on the books which disproportionately affect urban and rural areas. Combine these two factors together and you could have the makings of a competitive race, provided Hutchinson is held to under 3%. Either way, it’s at least encouraging to see that a DFL gubernatorial candidate could be running a competent campaign this year. That hasn’t happened in Minnesota since “The A-Team” was a hit on network television.

  2. Also keep in mind that Hatch’s recent downturn is likely the result of the negative headlines late last month when his spat with former Attorney General candidate Matt Entenza was made public. With Entenza out of the race, it’s unlikely that will continue to haunt Hatch

  3. Tsunami alert…..

    Two other independent polls were released today showing Republican incumbents in big trouble deep in the heart of red country. The first is GOP incumbent Geoff Davis in bright red northeastern Kentucky, who is trailing former Democratic Congressman Ken Lucas by nine points!

    Perhaps even worse news for the GOP is that IN-02 incumbent Chris Chocola is also trailing his Democratic challenger in a race that nobody even considered to be a top-tier contest up until now. http://www.southbendtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060724/News01/60724010/CAT=News01

  4. Here’s the thing:
    You’re calling a poll that has 28% of the self-described liberals voting for the Republican credible. That’s an interesting theory. You have a bright future as a pollster at the Pioneer Press.

    I don’t trust the crosstabs on either poll, but clearly there’s a big difference when one adds the Independence Party candidate–who is going to take votes from Klobuchar–into the mix.

    Realistically, here’s what you have: Kennedy is obectively between 5 and 10 points behind at this point (that’s IP candidate included). Klobuchar’s unfavorables are in the middle teens, while Kennedy’s are in the low 40s–Klobuchar has a heck of a lot more wiggle room, and those unfavorables are off the charts for a guy that hasn’t even had a primary challenge. Plus, if you do the math there, that means Kennedy is behind while more than a third of likely voters have no clue what they think about Klobuchar. The people in Minnesota say they want someone who opposes Bush by nearly a 2:1 margin; Kennedy and Pawlenty, on the other hand, are inviting Bush into Minnesota. Pawlenty has coat tails and will feel the heat that every governor in the Great Lakes regions–Dem or GOP–is feeling due to the loss of manufacturing jobs in the past few years. Contrary to what you say, Klobuchar is not even mentioning Bush in her speaches (or at least it is not a focal point). Klobuchar is much more relaxed with a crowd. You’ve also got some Dems that think they can win in the First CD, and judging by Gutknecht’s recent swings to the middle, Gutknecht just might agree (keep in mind Gutknecht has flopped on the war and organized labor as he finds himself in a race with a veteran member of a union…makes you wonder a little). Either way, the Dems are going to put a lot more effort into Rochester this year than they have in a statewide race in a long, long time. Also, the Dem primary in CD 5–really the only competitive Federal primary–will give the DFL another advantage in that they’ll have a jumpstart on identifying and turning out voters in one of the more liberal districts in the country.

    On Kennedy’s side, I think he’s a little more organized right now, has some limited experience in tough campaigns, and will likely raise about $2 million more thank Klobuchar at the end of the day. The Republicans are also much better at microtargeting, and Bachmann is going to make sure the 6th CD is about abortion and gay marriage–I don’t think Klobuchar has a good answer to either at this point. However, it would be a tough stretch to say that Klobuchar was going to be relying on the 6th for much, so this probably doesn’t hurt Klobuchar too much.

    On the other hand, I’m happy for you to think the GOP has a shot at sweeping Minnesota in 2006. You guys pump a lot of money in here and there’s less to go around for races you have a much better shot at winning. I’d say a smart Republican starts looking to Nebraska for a Senate pickup and sends the rest of the money to Missouri.

  5. I’d say a smart Republican starts looking to Nebraska for a Senate pickup and sends the rest of the money to Missouri.

    Rassmussen had Nelson leading by over 20% – I’d say with some certainty that unless Ben Nelson is caught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl, he’ll be reelected.

    At this point, I’d say that the GOP has two chances to pick up seats other than in MN: Steele has a strong shot in MD, and Kean is doing quite well in NJ. I’m guessing Santorum is toast (although he’s not out yet) and Burns is looking iffy in MT. The way the polls are going, I’m guessing that Talent is probably going to win, although that will be close.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the polls are pretty well worthless right now. The average voter isn’t going to really start paying attention until at least Labor Day, and that’s especially true in Congressional races. What we’re seeing now are the poll results for the more politically active. Depending on how the national mood goes that could be helpful to the GOP or extremely bad for the GOP – and we won’t get a better sense of that until the electorate starts really paying attention.

  6. “Rassmussen had Nelson leading by over 20%”

    Nelson had a 20-point lead over a guy named Chuck Hagel back in 1996 too. He ended up losing quite handily. Four years later, he nearly pissed it away again up against an unknown political neophyte who cut his commanding lead to a bare 51-49 margin. I’m glad the GOP keeps overestimating Nelson’s hold over Nebraska, because even a marginally competent challenger with an (R) next to his/her name would prevail in Nebraska no matter how frequently Nelson humps George Bush’s leg.

    “Steele has a strong shot in MD”

    Perhaps…..if Mfume wins the primary. That’d give the Republicans the kind of race where they’re in their element….shaming other people’s sex lives. Mfume’s past sex scandals would be the only issue of the day and would allow Steele to camoflauge his radioactive voting record, possibly to a victory. Even if Mfume wins the primary, I’d still give him a narrow advantage over Steele in the current climate. If Cardin wins, Steele will lose by double digits.

    “Kean is doing quite well in NJ”

    Your definition of “quite well” is fascinating given that Kean has never risen above 40% support in any poll I’ve seen, and has slipping steadily behind Menendez in more recent polling. If Jon Corzine could successfully hang the stigma of George Bush around his opponent’s neck in a gubernatorial race in New Jersey, the same ploy should really work in a Senatorial race where Bush has actually done fundraisers for his boy Kean.

    “The way the polls are going, I’m guessing that Talent is probably going to win”

    Um, recent polls have been going against Talent. That’s the most winnable race you mentioned though because Missouri will be easier to demagogue than any blue states over GOP wedge issues, particularly immigration. Plus, if I’m Karl Rove, I’m just waiting for August 9 to starting running ads along the lines of “How can Claire McCaskill be an ‘independent voice’ in the Senate as she claims when she’s a member of a political party that refuses to support a former Vice-Presidential candidate who only votes with them 90% of the time instead of 100%. Vote Jim Talent….a ‘real independent voice for Missouri'”. I think the Nedheads are seriously underestimating how the media will be like sharks in a feeding frenzy for months if Lieberman loses the primary, cannibalizing the entire “Republicans in deep doo-doo” storyline.

  7. Seth, my gut says the Dems could be disappointed in Rochester this year. I track Minnesota elections right down to the precinct level and can attest to the fact that the Rochester area is as Republican as ever in midterm election years where voter turnouts are lower. Klobuchar could conceivably fare well in Rochester, but only if GOTV efforts are as successful as they were in 2004. By contrast, the last midterm in 2002, only 14 Minnesota counties didn’t vote for Mike Hatch in his landslide re-election to the Attorney General position. One of those counties was Olmsted (Rochester). Midterm results in 1994 and 1998 were similarly ugly while Presidential year margins in 1996 and 2000 were decidedly better in the area.

    For those reasons, I’m not as optimistic as some regarding Tim Walz’s chances of unseating Gutknecht. If this were a Presidential election year, I’d like his chances better.

    On the other hand, Bachmann has turned herself into the Rick Santorum of Minnesota and has a virtual rolodex of wingnut quotes that can be used against her. If she wins against the warm and cuddly Patty Wetterling, I’d be surprised….even in conservative MN-06.

  8. Jay–seems weird that you would put up a post about polling and then say that “the polls are pretty well worthless right now.” I mean, I hate to then draw the logical conclusion about your post…

    Mark–Klobuchar only needs about 45% in CD 1 to win comfortably state-wide. Rochester went for Gutknecht about 2:1 in 2004, while electing several DFLers at the state level–tells me there are a decent amount of voters willing to cross over. Given Walz’s strength everywhere west of I-35, they don’t have to win in Rochester–they only have to come within 10 points or so. Given the union density in Rochester, that’s possible. Also, while we’re talking Hatch in 2002, he got 51% in CD 1.

    Bachmann has shown herself to be a nut. Problem is, you need someone to call her on it. The other night Karl Rove came to CD-6 to do a fundraiser. Wettetling is asked for a quote on the news. “That’s interesting,” she says. Ummm, Patty, the correct answer is “You have my word that I will not raise money with anyone who (insert anything you want to about Karl Rove here. I’d probably go with something about outing an undercover agent for partisan political gain)” or “My campaign is about the people of Minnesota. The only celebrities you’ll see at my fundraisers are the ones that work at the grocery store on the corner. Michelle’s campaign is apparently working very hard to become part of the problem in Washington.” Or any number of things. Bottom line is that was a lay-up for Wetterling and she blew it–and it’s not a one-time problem for that campaign. She’s not a great speaker, she doesn’t have a very dynamic personality and she’s not really cut out for campaigning. I realize she got 47% in ’04, but CD-6 has a performance index of right around 42. And let’s not talk about her relationships with the unions.

  9. Jay–seems weird that you would put up a post about polling and then say that “the polls are pretty well worthless right now.” I mean, I hate to then draw the logical conclusion about your post…

    They’re interesting from a political science/inside baseball perspective, and I’m admittedly a wonk about such things. In terms of predicting the outcome in November, they are pretty close to worthless right now.

    Rochester does provide some opportunities for the DFL, but probably not enough to make a difference. Rochester is still a strongly Republican area, and I don’t see Klobuchar getting much of an inroad there. Local races don’t necessarily indicate results in Congressional races, especially if you have a weak crop of local candidates. It’s not impossible for Klobuchar to pick up some support there, but I don’t think it will be enough to swing the election.

  10. Klobuchar’s success in Rochester will be entirely dependent on turnout. If typical midterm election year turnouts prevail, Kennedy will win the city by 3-5 points. If 2004-esque turnouts re-emerge, Klobuchar will likely be victorious (only in Rochester, not Olmsted County at large).

    Seth, you’re technically correct that a victory in MN-01 doesn’t necessarily require victory in Rochester, but it’s pretty damn hard to pull. You mention that Walz is doing well west of I-35, which I assume means Mankato. That may well be true, but keep in mind, west of I-35 you also have New Ulm, Fairmont and Worthington, among other places. Communities like those could easily be the spoilers if the Gutknecht-Walz contest proves as tight as some predict.

    And I concur that Patty Wetterling is far too milquetoast for the rough-and-tumble world of politics. In some ways, I’m dismayed that El Tinklenberg didn’t win the MN-06 party endorsement because aside from Wetterling’s name recognition, he was a stronger candidate. I agree that the window of time in which Wetterling and the Dems need to define Bachmann before she can define herself is narrowing, and I hope they don’t let a golden opportunity slip by to take advantage of the GOP’s hubris in nominating someone as far-right as Bachmann.

  11. Rochester is Republican–no one is doubting that. But tell that to the state reps in 30A and 30B–both DFL. All I’m saying is that Walz only needs mid-40s to win CD-1 and Klobuchar needs less to have a statewide victory. Both of these goals are very attainable, especially considering Kerry lost Olmstead by less than 6 points.

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