While it’s always problematic to look at polls before Labor Day, the latest from Minnesota Public Radio on the governor’s race shows a dead heat between Tom Emmer and Mark Dayton. Both have the support of 34%, with Tom Horner checking in at 13% and 19% not offering an answer.
You can look at this a number of ways. Here are a few things I’d suggest:
- Dayton and his minions (and I would include Matt Entenza in that collection) have spent millions of dollars demonizing Tom Emmer all summer long, with very little response from the Emmer camp. If the best they are able to do is get a tie, that doesn’t bode well for Dayton.
- There’s no point in pretending that Emmer’s campaign hasn’t had a few hiccups up to this point. The tip credit flap was an unforced error and he’s been slow to respond to some of the calumnies that have been heaped upon him thus far. While it’s good to see him starting to respond now, his passivity has been puzzling and often maddening. It’s not what we saw in the primary.
- The current economic conditions in Minnesota aren’t as dire as they are in, say, Nevada, which has allowed Dayton to run the sort of campaign that would have been laughed off elsewhere. That could change, though. One thing worth remembering is that many voters will start seeing the first fruits of Obamacare in October, when they get the bad news about their insurance premiums going up. That won’t help the standard-bearer of the party that is responsible for these increases.
- Some observers think that Horner will be a big factor, but I’m not convinced of that. He has the same problem that Jesse Ventura has: even if he could get elected, he’d have no friends in St. Paul and would have very little ability to move the debate. While it’s been nearly a decade since ol’ Jesse was in office, there are enough Minnesotans who remember what that was like and won’t relish a repeat.