Meffert trails Paulsen, but says internal polling shows path to victory

WASHINGTON — Jim Meffert’s campaign says a new internal poll shows a path to victory, despite also showing him trailing 3rd District incumbent Erik Paulsen by 22 points.

“Erik Paulsen is the most vulnerable incumbent House member in Minnesota,” said Kate Monson, Meffert’s campaign spokeswoman, adding that the survey “points to a wide open race that Meffert has a real opportunity to win.”

Now full caveat here: Internal polls as a rule ought to be taken with the largest spoonful of sodium chloride one can find, but they do shed light into the thinking of the campaign releasing them.

Paulsen leads Meffert 44-22 in a head-to-head matchup, with 7 percent backing Independence Party candidate Jon Oleson and 26 percent undecided, according to a Lake Research Partners survey conducted with 400 likely voters. The margin of error was 4.9 percent.

“We’re not taking anything for granted, but we’re feeling good and we think Erik’s well positioned,” said Tim Commers, Paulsen’s campaign manager.

However, the Meffert camp sees a bright side in the numbers — both in Paulsen’s standing under 50 percent against a largely-unknown challenger and in his net reelection numbers.

Paulsen’s job approval ratings are underwater (47 percent rate his performance as fair or poor, most of them fair, while 30 percent say he’s done an excellent or good job). Just 33 percent said they’d definitely vote for the incumbent, with 12 percent definitely opposing him. A further 31 percent said they’d consider someone else and 24 percent don’t know.

That’s a gap that Meffert, if he becomes better-known, could theoretically exploit. Paulsen theoretically ought to be vulnerable, the logic goes, as he didn’t garner a majority in 2008 (winning with 48 percent against Ashwin Madia) in a district Barack Obama carried by six points.

However, it’s generally a campaign maxim that one has to spend money to bump one’s name identification, and spend a lot if one needs to bump it a lot.

Campaign finance reports through June 30 showed Paulsen with almost $1.34 million in the bank to Meffert’s $48,000 — meaning that while Meffert trails in this poll by a margin of 2:1, he’s facing a cash disadvantage of almost 28:1.

It’s a tough mountain to climb, but Team Meffert says they see a path.

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