A poll by the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minnesota Public Radio shows John Kerry slightly ahead of George Bush among Minnesotans, and the only Democrat who would beat him at this point in the race:
The poll, commissioned by the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minnesota Public Radio, puts Kerry at 43 percent, Bush at 41 percent and undecided Minnesota voters at 16 percent. The poll was taken shortly after Kerry’s victories in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, which have given him momentum versus the rest of the field. …
In Minnesota, Bush would defeat Gen. Wesley Clark by a 5-point margin, Sen. John Edwards by a 6-point margin, Sen. Joseph Lieberman by an 8-point margin and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean by a 14-point margin. Among women, however, Democrats would defeat Bush — except Dean, who lagged by 1 point with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.
“The interesting thing there is how badly Dean does,” said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll. “He is clearly the weakest Democrat right now against the president.”
Statistically, it’s a dead heat (which the article stresses in its opening paragraph), and with 16% undecided, it would appear that the partisans have already decided and the more independent voters are keeping their powder dry. The keys among the poll demographics were the war on terror and the economy. Minnesotans approve of Bush’s handling of the war on terror, 53-47, and if we can keep Iraq together and make progress against al-Qaeda, that number might go up a little more. His approval rating specifically on Iraq was 49%, to 40% disapproving and 11% undecided, an oddly high number. After the fall of Baghdad — the last time the Pioneer Press did a poll — Bush’s numbers on the terror war were at 61%, not as high as his national numbers. The war will never show ecstatic numbers here in the North Star state.
Bush’s rating on the economy came in at 47-42-11 disapproving, significantly below his national numbers, and this needs attention, quickly. It doesn’t help that the major daily in Minnesota takes its economic cues from an increasingly hysterical Paul Krugman, whose columns it reprints without question. The Bush campaign should begin to advertise its economic successes and strategies for the future to Minnesotans in order to provide an alternative to the partisan volleys from the Strib. Hopefully those numbers will organically improve as more jobs open up in Minnesota.
I think that if the election were truly held today, Kerry would lose by a razor-thin difference to Bush; Minnesota went significantly to the right last election, and the pollsters missed that, too. But it would be a close-run thing, and if the Bush campaign wants a stronger result, kicking a few ad dollars this way now would be a good idea.