Latest numbers show a wide-open race for Minnesota governor, pollster says

A poll released this morning appears to show that it will be the Minnesotans who haven’t been paying attention yet to the governor’s race who ultimately will decide the winner.

The MPR-Humphrey Institute poll, which was conducted over a five-day period ending Sunday, shows DFLer Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer tied at 34 percent and the Independence Party’s Tom Horner far back at 13 percent.

But the poll also shows that roughly half of the state’s likely voters aren’t yet engaged in the race. Addtionally, it shows that 17 percent of those who identify themselves as Republicans and 16 percent who call themselves DFLers haven’t yet decided whether to support their party’s nominee.

This poll, unlike a recent Star Tribune survey showing Dayton ahead, did not include potential voters who only have cell phones.

So what’s it all mean?

U’s Jacobs says any of the three could win
“Put simply, the race is wide open, and any one of these three candidates could win,” the University of Minnesota’s Larry Jacobs, who oversaw operation of the poll, told MPR.

The poll, which has a margin of error of 5.3 percent, would seem to show that Dayton has slipped the most in the minds of Minnesota voters. After all, most early match-ups and others polls after his primary victory over Margaret Anderson Kelliher, had showed him with a 10-point lead over Emmer.

But Dayton and even some of his opponents had believed that margin was inflated. Dayton had predicted on the night of his primary victory that this would be a very close race.

His campaign reiterated that sentiment in responding to the new poll.

“We always expected this to be a close race, and the poll shows that we have a lot of work to do before November,” said campaign spokeswoman Katherine Tinucci. “We will be working hard for the next 63 days and nights to earn the support of Minnesota voters.”

This morning, Stephen Imholte, Horner’s campaign manager, said that the Horner campaign had assumed Dayton would fall back. Dayton was the beneficiary of “all sorts of media” attention immediately after his primary win, Imholte said.

Perhaps the key question is just what that 13 percent for Horner means.

Not surprisingly, Imholte said it was a solid number for the IP campaign.

“We’re actually where we thought we’d be,”said Imholte. “The bases of each of the other candidates are soft. There is room to move.”

Imholte believes 13 percent keeps Horner viable among those still undecided. Viability — the belief that Horner can win — is vital to attract undecideds.

“I can’t tell you how many people have come up to Tom and said, ‘I want to vote for you …’ ”

There is a “but” implied at the end of that thought, however — “But” I don’t want to waste my vote.

Horner has six weeks to make his case, campaign says
“The tipping point is still five or six weeks out,” said Imholte of the Horner campaign, adding that it’s important for Horner to get to 20 percent by early October. “Remember, Jesse Ventura was at 27 percent 10 days out [from his 1998 election victory].”

At this point, the poll shows that Horner, a lifelong Republican, is drawing a bit more support from self-identified Democrats than he is Republicans.

But if that comes as a relief to Republicans, there’s a bit of troubling news for the GOP as well. Traditionally, Republicans are far more loyal to their party’s candidate than DFLers are. So far, that solidarity is lacking around Emmer.

But, of course, the Emmer campaign officially found the good news in the poll.

“More and more Minnesotans are tuning into this year’s election as the Labor Day approaches,” said campaign spokesman Carl Kuhl in a statement, “and are responding to Tom Emmer’s positive message of job creation, economic expansion, education reform and government redesign. This poll shows that voter reject the failed policies of President Obama and Senator Dayton and that the only poll that matters is Election Day.”

Kuhl noted that Emmer is “still in a dead heat” despite “Senator Mark Dayton, his friends and family [spending] million on ads smearing Tom.”

He made no mention of the amounts being spent “smearing” Dayton.

In some respects, the poll underscores stereotypes about the two parties.

People making $50,000 a year or less favor Dayton 44 percent to 21 percent. Emmer receives the support of those making $50,000 a year or more 40 percent to 29 percent.

The poll does show that President Obama isn’t exactly a popular figure in Minnesota these days, with just 42 percent approving of the job he’s doing. Gov. Tim Pawlenty isn’t exactly wowing Minnesotans, either. He’s getting a job-performance approval of 46 percent.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Susan Lesch on 08/31/2010 - 01:32 pm.

    You know those photos in the upper left on the Star Tribune home page? Of the three, they’ve devoted the bottom right one to the governor’s race for a week. It is visible without scrolling on my machine. Of the past five or so week days, seems to me that Mr. Emmer has been in a favorable position five times. Expensive ads can hardly compete if the Star Tribune has a say in the election.

  2. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 08/31/2010 - 01:48 pm.

    For Susan and others, the panic is setting in.

  3. Submitted by Jim Camery on 08/31/2010 - 01:57 pm.

    My understanding is that this was a land-line only poll. I couldn’t find any explanation of if they tried or how they tried to weight for cells. If they didn’t, its got to be horribly over-representative of traditional, older households.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/31/2010 - 01:59 pm.

    Has Dayton run any campaign ads yet?

  5. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 08/31/2010 - 02:08 pm.

    I bet Tom Horner can’t wait to join the sullied likes of Tim Penny and Peter Hutchinson in Minnesota’s Spoiler Hall of Shame. How much money do you suppose Tom Emmer gave Tom Horner? When Emmer is sworn in, his first words ought to be, “Never shall we allow instant runoff voting, and God Bless Tom Horner.”

  6. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 08/31/2010 - 03:03 pm.

    Unfortunately to be expected. Republicans fall in line; Democrats fall in love. Those who were in love with Margaret Anderson-Kelliher haven’t fallen in love with Mark Dayton yet. Possibly they never will. But I think the thought of Gov. Tom Emmer and eight more years of Minnesota moving disastrously backwards will bring the faithful Democrats around by election time.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/31/2010 - 03:08 pm.

    re: #3

    “The survey data has also been weighted to accomodate for factors such as the number of telephone lines, cell phone usage, gender, age, race and ethnicity to approximate the demographic characteristics of the state’s population according to the Census.”

    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2010/08/31-mn-governors-race-poll/

  8. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/31/2010 - 04:32 pm.

    Jim Camery writes
    “its got to be horribly over-representative of traditional, older households.”

    glaring to me was that 46% of respondents were self-identified Repubs to 40% DFLers. Jacobs chalks this up to the ‘likely voter’ model, but I am skeptical that these numbers will prove to be accurate.

  9. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/31/2010 - 06:41 pm.

    One poll does not an election make. We shall see if these results hold up and how the results turn out in November.

    I certainly hope that, if those results are close enough to warrant a recount, Emmer won’t pull a “Coleman” (universal term for a sore looser who’d prefer to hold an entire state hostage for several months rather than admit that loss).

    Keep that in mind: When a sore loser tries to bring everything to a standstill, grasping at straws rather than admit they lost it’s called a “Coleman.”

    Come to think of it the Republicans in Congress have been pulling a “Coleman” all year, haven’t they?

  10. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/31/2010 - 07:30 pm.

    This race will be tighter than the belt on Tony Sutton. It would appear that both parties left the more electable candidates standing at the alter.

  11. Submitted by David Willard on 08/31/2010 - 10:09 pm.

    I certainly hope that, if those results are close enough to warrant a recount, Dayton won’t pull a “Franken” (universal term for a sore looser who’d prefer to hold an entire state hostage for several months rather than admit that loss).

  12. Submitted by David Willard on 08/31/2010 - 10:15 pm.

    Richard, Emmer is far more qualified than Dayton. It’s odd you cannot see that. Maybe some hatred for Repubs in the past?

  13. Submitted by james koency on 09/01/2010 - 02:15 am.

    This poll shows that voter reject the failed policies of President Obama and Senator Dayton and that the only poll that matters is Election Day.”

  14. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/01/2010 - 06:52 am.

    Mr. Willard, If I used your logic and reasoning, by you not supporting Dayton you must have a hatred of democrats. Why all the hate?

    I can’t support either Rep. Emmer nor Senator Dayton. One is too far to the right and the other is too far to the left. I have in the past voted for Carlson and Quie. I’ll be supporting Tom Horner the moderate republican. And because I can’t support your candidate that makes me a hater?

    I hope the folks that vote in this election vote as they please. Does that make haters out of all the folks that do not support my candidate? I would hope not…

  15. Submitted by Tony George on 09/01/2010 - 09:24 am.

    Isn’t about time someone questions Tom Emmer about his donations to Bradlee Dunn, a person who has expressed suppport for gay executions. I think this puts many Minnesotans at risk and should be dealt with in the campaign. I don’t think the major media should avoid this question just because Target and Best Buy are supporting Tom Emmer’s election.

  16. Submitted by Gail O'Hare on 09/01/2010 - 01:47 pm.

    I used to be proud to say I was from Minnesota. The past 8 years of Pawlenty’s rule have left me embarrassed. We’ve slid so far down the list of measures states can take pride in, we might as well be Mississippi. Pawlenty vetoed all progressive initiatives and quashed bills before they made it to his desk by flatly promising to veto.

    Where have Republican economics brought us? Where are all the companies that have created jobs because Republicans protected them? What will either Emmer or Horner do to shake up the status quo?

    The margin of error on this poll is considerably higher than past polls, which even at 3-4% have been unreliable. Dayton will win.

  17. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 09/01/2010 - 03:20 pm.

    I think Dayton will win too. Emmer still has not put forth a plan for the budget and for Minnesota as a whole. People are getting tired of Emmer’s revoltingly unattractive and nasty negative ads about Dayton.

  18. Submitted by Mohammed Ali Bin Shah on 09/02/2010 - 12:58 am.

    Ginny,

    And I guess that you and the Dems are satisfied with the revoltingly unattractive and nasty negative ads about Emmer? Dayton’s family and union friends have spent millions attacking Emmer and all you have is a tie? Now that people are paying attention Tom is unleashing his advertising and about to roll out his budget plan. Sounds smart not to peak in August. The goal is to peak on November 2. And I do believe that Dayton has already peaked.

  19. Submitted by Mohammed Ali Bin Shah on 09/02/2010 - 01:02 am.

    “People making $50,000 a year or less favor Dayton 44 percent to 21 percent. Emmer receives the support of those making $50,000 a year or more 40 percent to 29 percent. ”

    So, Mark, who wants to steal from the rich, gets the support of the poor and the less educated (direct correlation between the two). Gee, any surprise there?

    Are any of these people actually donating to the Dayton campaign, or is it the same family and union money being spent that bought his past elections?

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