When the previous Rasmussen survey in Minnesota’s gubernatorial race showed newly-minted DFL nominee Mark Dayton out with a large lead, I advised friends in the state to remain calm.  Dayton had been spending money hand over fist in Minnesota to barely squeak through the primary, beating the party-endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher by just 5200 votes, and Republican nominee Tom Emmer — all but unchallenged in the primary — had largely been off the air.  When the dust settled and Emmer began actively campaigning and advertising, we’d get a better look at the race.

Today, Rasmussen proves me prescient.  In their survey this week, Emmer has moved slightly ahead of Dayton, 42/41, in a virtual tie (via Mitch Berg):

Republican Tom Emmer and Democrat Mark Dayton are virtually tied now in the race to be Minnesota’s next governor.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Minnesota Voters shows Emmer earning 42% support to Dayton’s 41% when leaners are included. Independence Party candidate Tom Horner is a distant third with nine percent (9%) of the vote. Six percent (6%) like some other candidate in the race, and two percent (2%) are undecided.

Interestingly, Horner seems to be fading badly already.  I had expected most of Horner’s early supporters to make a last-minute switch to one candidate or the other is Horner couldn’t duplicate the performance of his party’s only successful statewide candidate, Jesse Ventura, in making this a race.  However, when excluding leaners, the picture changes somewhat.  Emmer winds up leading 36/34 over Dayton and Horner gets 18% of the vote.

The picture changes dramatically with independent voters in Minnesota when excluding leaners.  With them, Horner gets a full third, with Emmer and Dayton each taking 22%.  Without leaners, Dayton edges Emmer 33/32, with Horner only getting 17%.  Most importantly, though, in both scenarios, Horner takes about twice as many Democrats away from Dayton (16% with leaners, 10% without) as he does Republicans from Emmer (8% with leaners, 3% without).   Horner has been seen as a bigger threat to Emmer, being a former Republican, but his tax-hiking platform seems to do much better with Democrats in this race.

Otherwise, the demographics are as close as the toplines.  In both scenarios, Dayton gets the youngest and oldest voters, while Emmer wins all those in between.  Dayton wins those earning less than $40K per year, while Emmer wins the middle- and upper-class income levels.  Emmer wins men by double digits in both scenarios, while Dayton wins women by single digits in both scenarios.

However, Emmer has the issues on his side.  Even in progressive Minnesota, voters want repeal of ObamaCare, 54/41.  Barack Obama is slightly underwater in the state, 48/52, which frankly surprises me.  While voters in Minnesota are angry at the federal government (run entirely by Democrats) 61/35, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty has a 52/47 approval rating as he starts to exit after eight years at the helm.  Those numbers suggest that the momentum Emmer has begun to see comes from harnessing the national movement to dump Democrats and go in a different direction.