Minnesota gets purple

Rasmussen has been tracking the polls in several crucial battleground states for November’s presidential election, and has assigned states to their likely winners at this point in the race. Minnesota, which has voted Democratic since 1988 and went for John Kerry by just under four points in 2004, had looked like a solid Democratic state in 2008 as well. Now Rasmussen has moved the state to the leaners, indicating some Republican momentum:

In Minnesota, the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey shows Barack Obama leading John McCain 47% to 43%. The election poll also shows McCain essentially even with Hillary Clinton, leading her by a statistically insignificant 47% to 46%.

Obama leads McCain by eight points among women but trails by a single point among men. Clinton leads McCain by twelve among women but trails by seventeen among men. …

With release of this poll, Minnesota shifts from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic in the Rasmussen Reports Balance of Power Calculator.

I’m a little surprised.  The state GOP had a disastrous 2006 election, losing control of the lower chamber of the state legislature and every statewide office except Governor — and only holding that by a mere 20,000 votes.  The DFL, which is the Democratic Party in this state, has expanded its power base since that time to strengthen themselves at the expense of state Republicans, who have spent the last year infighting.

Two factors are at play here.  One, John McCain is a popular figure here, as the state tends towards the moderate and straight-spoken.  Tim Pawlenty’s early and constant support helps in this case, especially since Pawlenty has done a good job of nevigating the dangerous waters of a DFL-controlled legislature.

But without a doubt, Obama’s issues with Jeremiah Wright has done a lot of damage.  In February, as Rasmussen points out, Obama led McCain by 15 points in Minnesota.  Since the start of the Rezko trial, the Wright controversy, and the NAFTA Dance, McCain has picked up support at Obama’s expense in Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.  These are not just key states for the Electoral College, but also representative of working-class America.  It indicates that the far-left, fire-breathing rhetoric of a man whom Obama himself calls his spiritual mentor and political adviser has sounded a very sour note among a broad spectrum of voters.

If McCain can put Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania in play, the Democrats are dead in November.