Emmer, Dayton tied in new poll

posted at 5:50 pm on August 31, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Just a few weeks ago, the Star Tribune showed state Rep. Tom Emmer trailing badly in the Minnesota gubernatorial race to former US Senator Mark Dayton.  Their Minnesota poll showed a pre-primary Dayton leading by ten points, 40/30, with Independence Party candidate Tom Horner coming in at 13%.  Minnesota Public Radio’s latest poll suggests that either Dayton has lost significant ground by winning that primary, or the Strib poll performed about as well as it ever does in predicting elections:

Republican Tom Emmer and Democrat Mark Dayton are running are running even in the 2010 race for governor according to a new MPR News-Humphrey Institute Poll. …

Among likely voters, Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer are even at 34 percent support each. Independence Party candidate Tom Horner received 13 percent support.

A fifth of likely voters are undecided. Defections of both Democrats and Republicans from their party’s candidates and splits among key voting groups also contribute to the tight race.

Mitch Berg analyzes the survey and likes what he sees:

The poll – which focuses on likely voters, whom conventional wisdom says tend to break for the GOP – shows that the money Dayton’s spent on his soft-money smear campaign so far is just keeping things close in a year that’s going to be terrible for Dems, even in Minnesota.

It also shows that Emmer is losing some of the “base”.  Part of that is that the “base” is so ill-defined; I’m not sure how MPR identified “Republicans”; there’s a big difference between someone whose total identification is having voted for McCain in 2008 versus someone who went to the precinct caucuses.  The former is much more likely to defect, I’m going to guess.  More to the point, a fair chunk of respondents showed some degree of “Pawlenty fatigue” – while they may have voted Republican, these are not the kind of voters who are motivated by principles and policy specifics; they vote on the sort of surface-y things that the “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” campaign has focused on.

And yet for all of Dayton’s family’s millions in the race, it’s deadlocked, in a poll that has trended slightly Dayton so far.

Mitch also notices something curious in the demographics.  Women only favor Dayton by seven points, while men favor Emmer by eight.  That’s a surprisingly narrow gender gap for Minnesota, and suggests that Dayton may already be faltering among one of the DFL’s main constituencies. Mitch also points out that Emmer does surprisingly well among those with college educations, a hint that yet another constituency may be faltering for Dayton and the DFL (the Minnesota version of the Democratic Party).

MPR also pays close attention to the drag on the candidates from Governor Tim Pawlenty and President Barack Obama, and declares it a wash. However, it’s worth noting that Pawlenty has a positive job approval rating in this poll, although barely at 46/45.  Obama won the popular vote here in 2008 by slightly over ten points, but now gets an underwater job approval rating of 42/52.  Which rating will be more likely to motivate voters, especially since Pawlenty isn’t running for office in this cycle and thus will be much less relevant to voters coming to the polls in November?

The race may be too close to call, but there’s one more factor that MPR ignores.  Dayton’s numbers come after a multimillion-dollar campaign this summer in which Emmer got outspent 16:1 in the state, as Emmer kept his powder dry for the fall campaign.  Emmer has just now begun to air spots on television and hammer Dayton on taxes and spending.  If the race is truly a dead heat at the moment, that may change significantly now that Emmer’s finding his voice.  It’s certainly a lot more winnable than the Star-Tribune’s routinely ridiculous Minnesota Poll suggested.

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Given Mark Dayton’s dismal performance as US Senator, his well-known quirkiness and stability problems, and the anti-Democrat mood of the general electorate, it boggles my mind that this race is so close. But then, this IS Minnesota.

IronDioPriest on August 31, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Minnesota voters have a habit of electing goofballs (Jesse “The Body” Ventura) and ignorant jerks (Al Franken), so it doesn’t surprise me that Dayton is so popular. If I remember correctly, Dayton was rated as the worst senator in the country at one time. It’s funny because all of my friends who live in MN are decidedly right of center. Then again, none of them are from St. Paul.

simkeith on August 31, 2010 at 6:03 PM

Go, Emmer! Minnesotans do not deserve the two worst senators evah.

Terrie on August 31, 2010 at 6:03 PM

Wasn’t the Star Tribune about to go tit$ up awhile back??? I remember going to their website and they were all practically crying about it. I know our company used to to alot of advertising with them but it’s next to nothing these days.

Did they get some libspaz sugar daddy to pony up some cash so they could continue to be a crappy leftoid rag??

BigWyo on August 31, 2010 at 6:04 PM

OT: So Obama flies to Fort Bliss today to pander to the troops and then is going to fly back to DC for tonights “Speech”. How many frequent flyer miles does he have now?

milwife88 on August 31, 2010 at 6:18 PM

This is great.

gophergirl on August 31, 2010 at 6:18 PM

milwife88 on August 31, 2010 at 6:18 PM

Anything to get hims out of the White House…

d1carter on August 31, 2010 at 6:30 PM

Emmer had a few missteps early, but he’s coming on. Dayton is starting the feel the heat now and he’s not handling it particularly well.

Mr. D on August 31, 2010 at 6:30 PM

More and more frequently polls (particularly those sponsored by MSM) are designed to influence public opinion rather than gage it. The media knows the result it wants from the poll and then selects a sampling that will give them the results it wants. See BS goes so far as to oversample Democrats and minorities and then weights the sampling.

Ever notice how Obama does far better and Palin does far worse in media-sponsored polls than Rasmussen and Gallup? It’s no accident.

bw222 on August 31, 2010 at 7:20 PM

The Governors race is the most important race in MN this year. This is bigger than Bachmann, Kline, Oberstarr, Walz, Peterson, Paulson, Ellison and McCollum combined.

If Emmer wins then we probably pick up State House and Senate seats and who knows maybe even a US House seat.

If Dayton wins we will almost certainly have a DFL Majority in both the State House and State Senate. Then the spending spigots will be wide open.

jpmn on August 31, 2010 at 8:10 PM

And the S & T can’t figure out why I cancelled my subscription and turned to Drudge and HA to get my political dish.

chickasaw42 on August 31, 2010 at 8:17 PM

If Dayton wins we will almost certainly have a DFL Majority in both the State House and State Senate. Then the spending spigots will be wide open.

jpmn on August 31, 2010 at 8:10 PM

And the so far, so good, better than alot of places MN economy will take a giant $hit all over itself.

BigWyo on August 31, 2010 at 8:35 PM


This is a DFL emergency, repeat, a DFL emergency!

Prepare bogus ballots immediately; repeat, prepare bogus ballots immediately!

This is not a drill.

This is a Franken voter ballot stuffing emergency….

Bruno Strozek on August 31, 2010 at 8:54 PM

After Labor Day, Rasmussen says he will throw the “leaners” toward their Leanees, and I suspect that Emmer will get a bump. Name recognition shift over the next 2 months will all go his way, right? I mean, does anyone in Minnesota not know who Mark Dayglo is?

Jaibones on August 31, 2010 at 9:31 PM

If Dayton wins we will almost certainly have a DFL Majority in both the State House and State Senate. Then the spending spigots will be wide open.

jpmn on August 31, 2010 at 8:10 PM

That’s not really the scariest aspect of a DFL Governor, jpmn. The real horror show jumps out at us when we realize that this Governor and this legislature is going to REDISTRICT MINNESOTA!!!
Remember, this is a census year! And they’ve already got a detailed plan for gerrymandering every Republican incumbent into a contest with another incumbent Republican and breaking up every center of conservative votes into scattered remnants surrounded and overwhelmed by lefty votes. They can reconfigure Minnesota into a Progressive bastion for the next 10 years and they’ll take their cue from the Pelosi/Reid/Obama playbook used to ram through the HealthCare bill.
Make no mistake about it; If Tom Emmer isn’t Governor of Minnesota next year, we are so screwed!

Lew on August 31, 2010 at 10:12 PM