Poll shows voter-ID, traditional-marriage amendments winning in MN

For conservatives in Minnesota focused on two big initiatives on the November ballot, the latest Survey USA poll has some very good news.  For those conservatives focused on the races for Senate and the Presidency … not so much.  Barack Obama’s lead grew to 10 points after the conventions, and Amy Klobuchar is sailing to a landslide win over Kurt Bills in her first re-election fight:

8 weeks until votes are counted, Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney 50% to 40% in the battle for Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes, incumbent DFL candidate Amy Klobuchar is materially ahead in her campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate, and an amendment to define marriage is narrowly favored to pass, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted for KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities.

In this, SurveyUSA’s first poll of Minnesota since the Republican and Democratic conventions, Obama’s lead over Romney has grown from 6 points 6 weeks ago to 10 points today. The 10-point advantage comes largely from women, among whom Obama today leads by 17 points. Romney leads in Southern MN, but Obama leads elsewhere in the state. Obama holds slightly more of the Democratic base than Romney holds of the Republican base, and Independents break ever-so-slightly for Obama. (Among Independents, there has been a 7-point swing to Obama compared to SurveyUSA’s poll 6 weeks ago.) The real tailwind comes from moderates, who break 2:1 for Obama. Romney trails among the rich and the poor, among the educated and the less educated. There is erosion in Romney’s support among middle-income and upper-income voters, compared to 6 weeks ago. …

In the election for U.S. Senator from Minnesota, incumbent DFL candidate Amy Klobuchar remains the overwhelming favorite, leading Republican Kurt Bills 55% to 34%. 6 weeks ago, Klobuchar led by 24 points, today by 21.

Earlier this week, the Bills campaign announced that internal polling had the Republican nominee within 15 points of Klobuchar.  That’s certainly possible, but Survey USA usually does a credible job of polling Minnesota, almost always as a client for KSTP.  There is little evidence of any momentum on the ground here, at least not yet, and the fact that the campaign felt the need to trumpet a double-digit deficit asgood news tells us about the state of the race at the moment.  Bills has almost two months to catch up to Klobuchar, but unless he makes a move soon, he may never really get on the radar of voters outside the core conservative/libertarian base here.

Obama’s lead is also not surprising, except that it’s so weak compared to Klobuchar’s.  It’s interesting that we have some voters who are both Romney and Klobuchar voters.  Obama only beats Romney by three points among independents, and the 10-point lead is predicated on a D+7 sample (37/30/27).  Minnesota didn’t get an exit poll in 2010 for some reason — probably a lack of a Senate race and a competitive three-way race for Governor made exit polling too tricky — but the split in the Democratic wave election of 2008 was D+4, 40/36/25, and Obama won Minnesota by 10.  This looks like a relatively tepid showing, especially with Obama only getting to 50% in a state that hasn’t gone Republican since before Richard Nixon took down his tape recording equipment in the Oval Office.

The news on two initiatives is better.  The voter-ID constitutional amendment leads by a 2-1 margin, 62/31, winning every demo with majorities except Democrats and self-described liberals, which have majorities opposed.  The latest strategy by opponents is to claim that the requirement will escalate costs, but that’s not going to put a dent in this momentum.   Minnesotans are still embarrassed by the 2008 Senate race and want the voting system cleaned up. This one won’t be close.

The other ballot initiative looks more in doubt.  Conservatives won a court fight over the constitutional-amendment question description on the ballot that makes it clear that it doesn’t change the state’s definition of a valid marriage.  It moves the existing statutory language defining marriage as between one man and one woman into the state Constitution to keep activist judges from changing it unilaterally.  Nevertheless, opponents are campaigning against it by saying that voters shouldn’t put limits on marriage, ignoring the fact that the limits are already in place.  The initiative leads by seven points, 50/43, and it leads in every gender and age demo — but narrowly among women (48/43) and the 35-49 and 50-64 age demos (47/45 and 48/47 respectively).  Interestingly, it leads by a substantial amount with the youngest and oldest voters, double digit margins in both cases.

The problem?  For candidates, the winner has to get the majority of ballots with votes cast in their race.  For a constitutional amendment to pass in Minnesota, it has to get a Yes vote in a majority of all ballots cast, not just those ballots with a vote on the initiative.  Abstaining from this question on a valid ballot equals a “no” vote.  If this only has 50% support and a number of people don’t bother to cast the “yes” vote, the initiative is in real danger of failing even if it wins more votes than the “noes.”  The pro-traditional marriage campaign has to push hard to make sure supporters understand this and get out to vote in the election.