Minnesota’s gubernatorial race keeps getting stranger and stranger, with some surprising poll results today and an unexpected endorsement from the state’s only past Independence Party governor.
Given that it’s Jesse Ventura stepping into the ring to endorse Tom Horner, no one should be surprised that apparently not even the IP nominee knew that Ventura was going to bless him with his endorsement.
This twist comes at a time when the newest Rasmussen poll showed Horner fading in the three-way race.
Near dead heat
Rasmussen’s numbers show a near dead heat with a 3-point lead for DFL nominee Mark Dayton over Republican Tom Emmer but a 4-point margin of error.
The poll of 750 likely voters — taken Wednesday — shows Datyon at 44 percent, Emmer at 41 and Horner dropping to 10 percent.
The tightness at the top — and Horner’s struggles — are consistent with Rasmussen’s earlier polling. Rasmussen, it should be noted, shows a much closer race — and much poorer results for Horner — than the most recent Humphrey Institute and Star Tribune polls.
There also has been some criticism of Rasmussen because of its new way of discarding “leaners”and excluding cell phone users from its poll.
On the other hand, the results for Horner are startling, given that the poll was taken days after what seems to be Horner’s strongest week of positive news. In recent days, he’s received a raft of newspaper endorsements across the state. And midweek, he added the support of several high-profile politicians, including DFLer Mike Ciresi and former Republican Gov. Al Quie.
The Horner campaign, asked about the latest poll, seemed genuinely perplexed by the numbers.
“The number just don’t mesh with anything we have seen internally, or with any of the carefully done, non-robo opinion polling,” said Horner campaign spokesman Matthew Lewis.
And now today there’s Ventura, who becomes the third ex-governor to support Horner. Previously, Arne Carlson and Quie had come out for the IP candidate, who is a lifelong Republican.
This endorsement, which Ventura made via an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, also comes only days after Ventura appeared on Larry King’s television program and blew off Democrats, Republican, Tea Party members and, seemingly, IPers.
Ventura, in responding to a King question about the Tea Party movement, said: “They’re just an extension of the Republicans. I don’t support the third party movement anymore, because to me, the system is so corrupt that any third party, if it’s going to enter and be competitive within the system, will have to corrupt itself. We already have a two-headed monster — why would we want a three-headed monster?”
A change of heart for Ventura?
His comments today to the Pioneer Press were dramatically different.
“I urge people — if they truly want change, it’s in their power — shock the world again,” he said. “Vote Tom Horner as governor. That will have a much bigger effect than electing a Democrat or a Republican.”
The Horner campaign admitted its surprise by the endorsement, although it did say it had been in contact with the former governor.
And certainly, given Rasmussen, the timing is a pleasant development for Horner.
“We’re honored to have yet another former Minnesota governor’s endorsement,” said Lewis. “No one knows better than Jesse Ventura that the voters of Minnesota are capable of proving the polls wrong.”
(It should be noted that it was at about this time in his 1998 campaign that Ventura’s poll numbers were rising rapidly.)
There were many little surprises in the newest Rasmussen poll.
For example, 42 percent of the people polled saw Emmer and Horner’s views as mainstream, but Dayton winning the mainstream battle with 46 percent. (On the other hand, 44 percent find Dayton’s views extreme, with 39 percent considering Emmer extreme and 34 percent labeling Horner extreme.)
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the huge negative numbers Rasmussen found for Horner.
According to Rasmussen, 58 percent have an unfavorable view of Horner, with both Emmer and Dayton at 47 percent.
“The positive/negative ID is so wildly out of tune with our numbers and others that I don’t know if there’s anything to be learned from it,” said Lewis.
Another surprising result in Rasmussen’s poll: Dayton has just a 3-point lead, 44-41, in voters older than 65. Dayton was expected to have a substantial lead among the seniors.
But a result that’s more in keeping with the conventional thinking is that Dayton has a comfortable lead among women (50-36) with Emmer more popular among men (47-36).
Does poll explain week’s events?
The closeness showed by Rasmussen may give context to a couple of events this week.
On Wednesday, state Republican Chair Tony Sutton was claiming that the party’s internal polling showed the electorate moving toward Emmer. (He wouldn’t release data. And again, it should be noted that the previous Rasmussen poll taken earlier in the month showed Dayton with a 2-point lead over Emmer.)
Then, on Thursday, DFL Party Chairman Brian Melendez held a news conference questioning Emmer’s personal finances — the first time the DFL had gone personal on Emmer.
Melendez denied that the party’s internal polling had anything to do with what seemed to be a strategic change of course. He predicted that Dayton would win on Nov. 2.
Then, he laughed.
“What else would you expect me to say?” he said.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.