Strib poll: Biden struggling in Minnesota?

He’s leading — but not by much, in a polling series noted for its leanings toward Democrats. In the latest Star-Tribune/KARE11 poll in Minnesota, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump among registered voters, but barely outside the margin of error. Biden also fails to get to a majority, and has real problems once outside the friendly confines of the Twin Cities proper.

Normally, Democrats lead by wider margins in Minnesota, and almost always score above 50%:

Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a small lead over President Donald Trump among registered voters in Minnesota, according to the first presidential poll in the state since the Democrat clinched his party’s nomination.

A new Minnesota Poll conducted by the Star Tribune, MPR News and KARE 11 found Biden ahead of Trump 49% to 44% in the general election matchup less than six months ahead of Election Day. Biden fell just short of a majority, but 7% of Minnesotans said they are still undecided.

The poll also found that statewide, 53% of voters disapprove of the Republican incumbent’s job performance as president, compared with 45% who approve. Only 2% were undecided about Trump, reflecting a high degree of polarization heading into the fall election season.

That’s pretty thin sauce for a nominee as thoroughly known as Biden. Don’t forget that Biden won twice here on presidential tickets by wide margins and spent time in the state in both of those cycles. This isn’t an issue of a lack of exposure; people here know Biden, and they’re just not excited by him. DFL voters here probably leaned heavily toward Bernie Sanders, given the state’s propensity for progressivism, but it’s been more than a month since Sanders conceded and endorsed Biden.

This is also curious:

A Minnesota Poll last October that matched Trump against four Democratic presidential contenders, including Biden, found the former vice president with a significantly larger lead over Trump than he has now.

But Biden’s level of support remains nearly unchanged from October: It’s Trump who gained ground in the new poll, especially with men, Minnesotans who live outside the Twin Cities, and voters over 65.

Making this even more curious is the strength picked up in the same poll by Governor Tim Walz. While Biden stagnates, Walz has picked up momentum in the same sample, although he has also picked up more naysayers:

The 65% approval rating is an increase from a Minnesota Poll conducted in February, weeks before the pandemic upended daily life and politics, leading to a series of executive actions temporarily closing businesses and limiting people’s movements. Before the crisis, 56% of registered voters approved of the DFL governor’s work.

But the share of Minnesota voters who disapprove of Walz’s job performance also has grown as the political debate intensifies about the state’s stay-at-home orders. In February, 25% of Minnesotans said they disapproved of his job as governor, compared to 30% in May, even as a majority of registered voters also voiced support for the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus.

Biden’s stagnating while both Trump and Walz gain strength. That does not bode well for the Democratic presidential nominee, even in a state that’s almost certainly going to land in his column. It speaks to a distinct lack of enthusiasm for Biden, and perhaps also a lack of ability to take advantage of openings to gain ground after having the nomination all but secured for well over two months now.

The internals don’t look much better for Biden, especially in this environment. The partisan split seems about right for MN, with a D/R/I of 38/33/29, and the use of registered voters makes sense for now, too. In the middle of a pandemic, how can we say who a “likely voter” will be? One has to think, though, that pandemic worries might impact higher-density populations most, and that’s precisely where Biden’s political strength lies. He scores a 62/29 over Trump in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, but only 48/44 in the rest of the metropolitan-area counties. Trump scored double-digit wins in outstate areas, 57/39 in the south and 56/38 in the north.

Another worry for Biden is the age demos. Most of his support comes from 18-34YOs, 53/35, the voting demo that doesn’t reliably turn out. He also gets 55/40 from 35-49YOs, a more reliable bloc, but Trump scores a majority of voters older than that — and those are the most reliable.

Even with all that in mind, a Trump win in MN would be a very heavy lift. This, though, means that Democrats will be forced to spend time and resources here — resources that might have otherwise gone elsewhere. Given Biden’s huge gap in fundraising against Trump, that’s not an inconsequential issue. If the rest of the upper Midwest starts looking the same, Amy Klobuchar might get a call sooner rather than later.

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