“Front-runner” is a fraught designation in American politics. Despite the necessity of winning, not every candidate wants the title, worried that supporters relax while rivals intensify. And, of course, the only place to go is down.
But with the release of KSTP’s latest SurveyUSA poll, the media should feel comfortable calling Mark Dayton the front-runner, at least for now.
SUSA — which, if anything, leans GOP and nailed Tim Pawlenty’s tight-as-a-tick 2006 win — gives DFLer Dayton a 5-point lead over Republican Tom Emmer, 42 percent to 37 percent. That’s up from a 2-point margin a month ago.
Yes, the 5-point spread is within the 7.4-point margin of error (3.7 plus or minus). Reporter Tom Hauser notes it could be 41-38 Emmer, though it’s as statistically likely (or rather, unlikely) as 46-33 Dayton.
Still, it’s too cautious to write — as KSTP does in its web story — that “Minnesota’s race for governor remains without a clear front-runner.”
Dayton now leads in every major poll (Strib, SUSA, Rasmussen, MPR) by margins of 2 to 11 points. What’s more, every pollster has the DFLer’s margin expanding since late August.
I’d venture to add all three parties’ internal polls show Dayton leading. The Horner camp says this explicitly, though they have some interest in depressing Emmer’s expectations. When a GOP memo calls the race “essentially tied,” you know their guy isn’t in front.
I appreciate salt grains when it comes to polling, and leads don’t guarantee victory Nov. 2. (Remember, no survey had Pawlenty leading in October or November 2006.) But if polls are snapshots, right now they all show a smiling Dayton. KSTP makes things less clear for the public by soft-pedaling that.