I’d be the first to tell people that my state is a quadrennial sucker bet for Republicans. In 2008, no one thought we had a prayer, but in 2000 and 2004, Republicans actually thought they had a chance to break the Democrats’ presidential winning streak, as the state last went to the GOP in 1972. I’ve been hearing Republicans get optimistic here again, but I’ve been highly skeptical of the prospects for Mitt Romney to even get close here.
As the presidential race tightens across the country, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found that it is narrowing here as well, with President Obama holding a 3-point lead and Republican Mitt Romney making gains in the state.
The poll shows Obama with support from 47 percent of likely voters and Romney earning backing from 44 percent — a lead within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Last month, Obama had an 8-percentage point advantage in the Minnesota Poll. Romney has apparently cut into the Democrat’s advantage among women since then and picked up support from Minnesotans who were previously undecided or said they would vote for a third-party candidate.
Independents, on the other hand, are leaning more toward Obama. Barely a third supported him last month, but that number has grown to 43 percent. Romney’s support among independents remains virtually unchanged, with 13 percent of that group remaining undecided.
Bear in mind that this is the Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll, which has a long and (un)glorious history of leftward tilt. Mitch Berg has long documented this trend. One has to wonder whether we’ll need to send paramedics to his house this morning after he reads Rachel Stassen=Berger’s report from the survey.
Snark aside, this looks like a relatively solid poll. The sample is D+5, with a D/R/I of 38/33/29. In 2008 when Obama won by 10 points, it was D+4 at 40/36/22, and I suspect that Republicans are going to be more motivated this time around. Obama wins the core counties in the Twin Cities, but only by a relatively weak 57/35. Romney wins the Metro suburbs with a majority 51/39 and edges Obama 46/44 in the rest of the state.
In 2008, Obama had a 19-point edge in the gender gap, +3 among men and +16 among women. This time, Obama has only a +1 — he’s up 14 among women but down 13 among men. Obama still leads by 6 among independents, which he won by 17 points in 2008, but he’s only got 43%. Late breakers are not likely to flow to the incumbent at this stage of the election; if the were inclined to support Obama, they’d already be in his corner now.
That’s true of the overall number as well. If Obama can only get to 47% in the Star Tribune poll with nine days left to go before the election in Minnesota, which has gone Democrat every presidential election over the last four years, this state is in play — and that’s why both campaigns are suddenly starting to spend money here.