Longshot alert: Housley trails but still in range in MN

It’s a couple of days old but still worth a peek as we settle up the polls on Election Eve. SurveyUSA’s poll for local ABC affiliate KSTP in the Twin Cities shows at least the potential for an upset in the race to fill the final two years of Al Franken’s Senate term. Appointed incumbent Tina Smith has an eight-point lead but only gets to 48%, leaving at least an opening for Karin Housley to make an Election Day surprise — but it will have to come on Election Day:

Smith today leads Republican Karin Housley by 8 points, effectively unchanged from a SurveyUSA poll 6 weeks ago when SurveyUSA had Smith ahead by 9 points. This contest is to fill the seat left vacant when DFL Senator Al Franken resigned. Among voters who tell SurveyUSA they have already returned a ballot, Smith leads by more than 2:1.

The data from the SUSA poll covers the gubernatorial and two Senate races, and Republicans trail in every one. The closest Republican is Doug Wardlow running for attorney general against Keith Ellison, which I covered in this post. GOP nominee Jeff Johnson trails Tim Walz for governor by an almost identical margin (49/41), while Jim Newberger trails incumbent Amy Klobuchar much more significantly at 57/34.

Smith dodged a statewide-broadcast debate with Housley late last month but showed up for another yesterday. KSTP reports that both women held their own and managed to avoid shooting themselves in the foot. Health care was a big topic, which has its own challenges for the entire Republican ticket:

The DFL is hammering every race on health care in their TV ads. It’s practically the only topic discussed in the past month. And the DFL clearly has a big advantage on TV, especially in the Twin Cities media market. Republicans had an opportunity to change the subject, but it’s far from clear that they took enough advantage of it:

Overwhelmingly, Minnesotans say the most important issue in determining how they vote in 2018 is health care. Among voters focused on health care, Democrat Walz leads by 45 points, Democrat Smith leads by 37 points, Democrat Klobuchar leads by 61 points and Democrat Ellison leads by 39 points. By contrast: among voters who say taxes are the most important issue in 2018, Republican Johnson leads by 62 points, Republican Housley leads by 57 points, Republican Newberger leads by 31 points and Republican Wardlow leads by 48 points.

So why have any optimism in this race, or for that matter in the Johnson-Walz gubernatorial race? For one thing, there are still a high number of undecideds left in both races — 7% in the Senate race and 9% in the gubernatorial race. Add in the percentages planning to vote for “other,” and there are 11-12% of voters who can still be swayed, assuming that they haven’t already voted (17% of respondents report that they have).

There’s some hope in the demos too. Housley has a small margin over Smith among independent voters, 37/34, with 11% undecided (and 17% leaning 3rd party). Housley also has more room to pick up Republican voters, while Smith has already consolidated Democrats and still has only gotten to 48%. Smith has a big lead (51/36) in the Twin Cities, but that’s pretty low for a Democrat looking to win statewide. Housley’s up big in southern Minnesota and leads in northeastern Minnesota, where Pete Stauber is expected to win big in the MN-08 House race. Housley could definitely benefit from that boost. (Johnson, by the way, is performing even stronger in that region, and he’s edging Walz in the Democrat’s home region of southern Minnesota.)

None of this is to argue that Housley’s winning the race at this point, in a state where no Republican has won a statewide election since 2006. However, any DFL incumbent at 48% the weekend before Election Day is vulnerable, especially if she’s only getting 51% of the respondents in the Twin Cities. There’s a potential for a surprise here, and in the gubernatorial and AG races, too.

Addendum: I will be on air tomorrow night from Republican HQ on AM 1280 The Patriot, as well as blogging live here at Hot Air. Be sure to tune in!