This morning, one of the first e-mails I opened was from the McCain campaign, claiming that the presidential race in my state had pulled into a dead heat.  Sure, I thought — Minnesota barely has Norm Coleman ahead of Al Freakin’ Franken. Obama should be up 15 here under those circumstances, and in fact the MinnPoll has Obama ahead by 11.  Survey USA says it’s a margin-of-error race, though, and says Obama’s tripping up Franken:

60 hours until votes are counted in Minnesota, Barack Obama’s advantage over John McCain is back inside the margin of sampling error, according to SurveyUSA’s final look at one of 2008’s most interesting states. Obama 49%, McCain 46%, in interviewing underwritten by KSTP-TV in Minneapolis, WDIO-TV Duluth and KAAL-TV Rochester, 10/30/08 through 11/01/08. Obama led by 6 two weeks ago, now by 3. The late break to the GOP is occurring among men and seniors.

That’s a shock to me.  During the summer, I had thought that McCain could carry Minnesota if he picked Tim Pawlenty as his running mate, and had less chance with Sarah Palin.  This state has not voted Republican in a national election since Nixon ran against George McGovern in 1972, and Bush lost to Kerry by 3.5% in 2004, when we thought the GOP might have a shot at the Land o’ Lakes.

And rather than helping Franken, Obama seems to be making the DFL Senate candidate’s plight worse:

For each point McCain gains, the better it looks for Republican Norm Coleman’s US Senate re-election bid. In 4 pre-election tracking polls, SurveyUSA has never shown Franken ahead. Other pollsters have. The contest is close, fiercely fought, and Franken may in fact win. But in SurveyUSA’s final numbers, it’s Coleman 44%, Franken 39%. Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley, though down from 19% a month ago to 16% today, is a true spoiler. Barkley’s supporters are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans, and more likely to be pro-choice than pro-life. If Barkley’s supporters turn-out to vote but at the last instant turn-away from Barkley, Franken may out-perform these numbers.

Barkley’s bid has been Coleman’s saving grace in a year that was supposed to be tough on Republican incumbents.  Franken is truly an execrable candidate and a disgrace as a potential representative, and Barkley gives those hostile to Coleman a haven for their vote.  Had the DFL nominated a respectable opponent — say, Michael Cerisi or even Priscilla Lord Faris — this race might look very different and Barkley would likely be an afterthought in polling.  Barkley has 16% despite running a grand total of one television ad this season.

The internals on the presidential race are very interesting.  McCain leads among men, seniors, and 35-49.  Obama leads among women, youth, and middle-aged voters.  Obama inexplicably gets 23% of the pro-life vote in Minnesota, and perhaps that’s one place where the McCain campaign can work to swing the last few votes from Obama to McCain.  In a state where independents really matter, McCain has a five-point edge.

If McCain wins Minnesota, that puts a major dent in Obama’s presidential aspirations.  No one had Minnesota in the red column, and if the momentum carries McCain across the finish line here, it may do the same in other battleground states that Obama — and the media — expected to see finish blue.