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.

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.

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.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 03/18/2008 - 12:37 pm.

    Are you pretending Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer does not exist and is the best candidate still in the race for US Senator?

    Unlike Franken, Jack N-P will not off-put senators who prefer more respectful verbal and written exchanges (without, of course, giving up humor). Jack’s fund raising is at about the same level per month as Franken’s (and Ciresi’s until he withdrew), but looks like less because he can’t contribute $2 – $2.5 million to his own campaign.

    Jack is right on every issue. (Franken is particularly weak on health care.)

    Jack worked for nine years in Latin America, where he saw first-hand how American foreign policy can create relationships bearing no relation to the “good neighbor” the U.S. once envisioned. He also served as one of Paul Wellstone’s foreign policy advisors and helped Wellstone decide to oppose the invasion of Iraq. (Al has carried out many USO visits, admirable to be sure, but still just entertainment.)

    Al is strong, knowledgeable, and usually articulate. Jack is the stronger, more knowledgable, more articulate candidate.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/18/2008 - 01:13 pm.

    The only problem is that Jack N-P is a latecomer to the campaign, and hasn’t shown much in the way of political (as opposed to debating) skills.
    Paul Wellstone he ain’t.
    I certainly like his positions, but he’d be another Adlai Stevenson or George McGovern.
    Wouldn’t help anyone.

  3. Submitted by Kevin Judd on 03/18/2008 - 08:56 pm.

    As one who listened regularly to Al Franken on air, I do think he will have trouble explaining the litany of crude, sarcastic, and hyper partisan remarks. Whatever your views of Coleman, he’s proven a good campaigner.

    Franken has done a great job of campaigning in this primary; his fundraising efforts paid off in grateful party insiders and delegates; the very people who will give Franken the party endorsement. I suspect Ciresi rightly saw that he had no opportunity to win over these delegates; taking his message to rank and file Democrats does nothing unless he is willing to buck the party endorsement (which he knew was out of reach).

    The Franken jujitsu will solidify the DFL base, who love the attacks, but I’m not sure if he can win moderates. So the question turns on who will come out to vote.

  4. Submitted by Charley Underwood on 03/22/2008 - 01:48 pm.

    I am deeply concerned that an Al Franken meltdown will come after the state DFL endorsing convention but before the November election. If that is the case, Minnesota and in fact the nation will lose, as we get to watch Norm’s pretty teeth for another 6 years.

    Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer could still win the June endorsement in three different ways. Jack might pick up the remaining state convention delegates. Jack might convince the uncommitted (and perhaps even Franken-leaning) delegates already elected. Franken might have his meltdown in the days BEFORE the state convention, demonstrating to all and sundry that Franken himself is unelectable.

    I am not predicting a Nelson-Pallmeyer endorsement at this point. I am, however, quite clear that Jack would make a much better senator and that Jack would also make a much better opponent against Norm Coleman. It is totally up to the DFL state convention-goers to decide if they really want to jump on the Franken bandwagon just before it goes off the cliff.

  5. Submitted by trust no1 on 05/20/2008 - 09:58 pm.

    I’m with Charley on this one. JNP has proven time and time again that the issues are what really matter, not money or celebrity status. Coleman will have a field day with Franken if he gets the endorsement — JNP, however, has no baggage which means Coleman will have a hard time making him look bad.

    I’m also disturbed by the idea that JNP is considered by many, too “progressive” for mainstream DFLers. What does that mean exactly? Is wanting a healthcare system that works too progressive? Is wanting to end the war and US occupation of Iraq too progressive? Is wanting a clean, healthier environment too progressive? Is wanting affordable education too progressive? I see no downside here.

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