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The latest Coleman-Franken horserace poll numbers

In the latest publicly available horserace poll on the Minnesota U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman leads his likeliest DFL opponent Al Franken opponent by 51-41 percent, with 7 percent undecided. Read more…

In the latest publicly available horserace poll on the Minnesota U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman leads his likeliest DFL opponent Al Franken opponent by 51-41 percent, with 7 percent undecided.

The poll was taken Wednesday by SurveyUSA, using robotic phone interviews with 644 registered Minnesota voters. The margin for sampling error is +/- 3.9 percentage points (which means that Coleman’s lead is rated as “statistically significant.”) The poll was sponsored by KSTP-TV, which broadcast the results last night.

Here is SurveyUSA’s breakdown of the internals of the poll.

It would be unwise to take very seriously, eight months before the general election, this poll, or the previous one, also taken by SurveyUSA for KSTP a month ago, which showed the race Franken 47; Coleman 46.

It’s hard to imagine anything that has happened in the past month that would cause the race to swing from Franken up one to Coleman up 10. I attribute it to the vagaries of early polling in a race that hasn’t taken shape yet.

I do have it from a reliable Democratic insider that the previous poll had helped the national party bigwigs feel much better about the Dems’ chances of picking up the Minnesota seat. For most of last year, there was a palpable nervousness on the Dem side that they had a golden opportunity to knock Coleman off, but not a candidate who could get it done.

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Franken has long been the likeliest Dem endorsee and nominee. His fame from his previous life in show business and his proven early prowess as a fund-raiser were bankable assets of the kind that gets the national party focused on a pickup opportunity (plus the obvious fact that Minnesota is a purple state that has been trending blue).

But Dems were (and are) concerned about how Franken’s candidacy would hold up when the Republicans started publicizing the long list of crude, sarcastic, hyper-partisan comments that Franken has made or written during his career. This remains one of the central questions to be answered over the course of this year. Franken recently told my esteemed MinnPost colleague Doug Grow that his plan for dealing with that problem is jujitsu.”

And I guess we’ll find out how that works later this year. If you are reading this post, you are very likely aware of some of these remarks. But the less politically attentive public probably isn’t, and the MNGOP and Team Coleman will find some to make them more famous (it will be interesting to see how they go about it, since many of the remarks will not be suitable for TV ads).

But my Democratic insider said that, despite the Dem nervousness, the party big cigars were long past the point of looking for someone else to get into the race. (Tim Walz, R.T. Rybak, Tarryl Clark, Alan Page — Arne Carlson was even discussed, although he was Republican during his active political career.)

And they were heartened by Franken’s consistent big fund-raising numbers and then by the February poll and some others that showed Franken within striking distance of Coleman.

Of course the big cigars know better than to overreact to a February or March poll. But my source told me they were comparing Franken’s numbers to those of three other races in which vulnerable Repub incumbents were being challenged by Democrats in purple northern states (specifically Maine, where the incumbent is Sen. Susan Collins; New Hampshire, John Sunnunu; and Oregon, Gordon Smith) and Franken seemed to be leading that group of Dem challengers both in fund-raising and in trial heats.