For the entire decade-plus of my blogging career, Republicans in Minnesota keep anticipating that they can turn the state red, or at least purple, in national elections. In the entirety of that period, the GOP routinely falls short. The high-water mark was probably the 2004 national election in which George Bush got within four points of John Kerry in the one state that never voted for Ronald Reagan, or perhaps the 2010 election in which the GOP took control of both chambers of the state legislature — while losing every statewide race at the same time. Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by eight points in 2012, though, as Democrats took control of the legislature once again.
Republican pollsters started hinting earlier that incumbents Senator Al Franken and Governor Mark Dayton could find themselves in serious trouble in 2014, though, thanks to the drag from Obama and ObamaCare. A new KSTP/ Survey USA independent poll shows they may well be right:
According to our KSTP/SurveyUSA poll, Obama’s approval rating is just 36 percent in Minnesota, with 54 percent disapproving and 10 percent not sure. That’s down from a 55 percent approval rating in Sept. 2009.
The news is a little better for the two Democratic incumbents, however:
By comparison, Dayton and Franken have higher approval ratings, but both are below the key 50 percent threshold often seen as key to a strong re-election bid.
Dayton’s approval rating among Minnesotans is 49 percent, with 40 percent disapproving and 12 percent not sure. He has the support of 76 percent of Democrats, 44 percent if independents and 27 percent of Republicans.
Franken’s approval rating near the end of his first term in the U.S. Senate is 46 percent. Another 42 percent disapprove and 13 percent are not sure. Franken has approval of 72 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans. His most worrisome numbers might be his 46 percent disapproval among independents versus 41 percent who approve.
The big drag for Democrats will be the perception of MNSure and ObamaCare. This survey took place in the first week of April, as the White House took its “victory lap” over their claim to have exceeded their open-enrollment goal of 7 million insured through the exchanges. Minnesotans are highly unimpressed with those claims of success. Approval of the MNSure state exchange is a dismal 31/44, but it’s even worse for ObamaCare in general — 33/54. With a D/R/I of 33/26/35, it’s pretty clear that the Democrats are barely holding their base on ObamaCare.
Still, it will take a solid effort from Republicans to ensure that the party can hold these incumbents accountable for their actions on ObamaCare. The state party has had lots of organizational issues over the last few years, and hasn’t won a statewide office since 2006, when Tim Pawlenty barely won re-election in a three-way race — and the GOP lost all of the other statewide races on that ballot. The endorsement/primary process in Minnesota practically guarantees disunity and infighting (also true of Democrats, but they will run incumbents and avoid that problem).
If it was far too soon for Obama to take a victory lap in ObamaCare, it’s still too soon to assume that its failure will seriously threaten the two incumbents the GOP would most like to retire here in Minnesota. It does, however, offer some enticing hope for Republicans to get involved and restore some organizational strength to the state party.