A new poll commissioned by Jim Graves, the DFL challenger to Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, shows the two candidates effectively tied in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District.
The poll, which surveyed 401 likely voters and was conducted between August 29-30, shows that 48 percent are planning to vote for Bachmann while 46 percent are planning to vote for Graves, a local hotelier. That’s within the survey’s 4.9 percentage point margin of error.
Six percent of those surveyed said they don’t know who they’ll vote for.
The poll was paid for by the Graves campaign and conducted by a Democratic polling firm.
Bachmann spokesman Chase Kroll said that’s not something that should be ignored, but did not respond to questions about the Bachmann campaign’s own internal poll numbers.
“Jim Graves can buy a lot of polls from Democrat pollsters,” Kroll said. “What he can’t buy is votes. Minnesotans know Congresswoman Bachmann’s record as a strong independent voice fighting against wasteful spending in Washington. When people learn about Graves, they’ll see that he is just another big-spending liberal that we simply can’t afford.”
Nevertheless, the survey does show that Graves is catching up with Bachmann. In June, the same firm polled 505 likely voters, and found that Graves had only 43 percent of the vote while Bachmann had 48 percent and 9 percent were undecided.
The latest poll also shows that Graves is doing better among independents. In June, Graves had only 41 percent support among that voting bloc while Bachmann had 45 percent support.
Today, the survey shows Graves leads Bachmann 57 to 37 percent.
Kay Wolsborn, a political science professor with the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Collegeville, said the numbers show that there’s more of a contest in the 6th district than there has been in the past.
Wolsborn points to Bachmann’s presidential campaign as a potential factor.
“There were lots of other things that happened during that campaign that made [Bachmann] a little bit more vulnerable than she would normally be in District 6,” Wolsborn said, though she pointed out that Bachmann is still running strong even by the Graves numbers and her ability to raise campaign cash hasn’t seemed to diminish.
Wolsborn also said that the shift among independent voters may be a reflection of the fact that there is no third-party candidate in this year’s race. For instance, in 2008 Bob Anderson got 10 percent of the vote.
“They don’t have anywhere else to go this time,” Wolsborn said. “They can always stay home. But in a presidential election year, they’re less likely to stay home and if they see something interesting in terms of a local or statewide race – or district race in this case. They’re likely to turn out, especially if it’s a contest.”
Wolsborn pointed out that it’s impossible to say whether independent voters in previous 6th district races would have ultimately supported a Democrat or a Republican absent a third-party candidate.
Bachmann’s vulnerability has become part of Graves’ pitch for support. For instance, an infographic on his Facebook page touts statistics about Bachmann’s recent showing in the 6th district primary and directs users to a page on his website where they can sign up to support the Graves campaign.
Still, the Rothenberg Political Report still lists the 6th as safe for Bachmann.