Democratic poll shows tight race in 2nd District

WASHINGTON – A poll paid for by a Democratic-allied group says 2nd District Republican Rep. John Kline could be in for a tight re-election race next year.

The poll of 825 likely voters in the district says Kline trails his DFL challenger, Mike Obermueller 38 to 42 percent and says Kline’s favorability and job approval ratings are also underwater. The poll’s margin of error is 3.4 percent.

But take those results with a degree of skepticism. There’s still more than a year before voters go to the polls and much can change in a political campaign in that stretch of time. Moreover, this poll was paid for by the House Majority PAC, a Democratic outside spending group that can accept unlimited contributions so long as it doesn’t coordinate its activities with candidates.

While the initial polling questions used by pollster Public Policy Polling appear to be relatively balanced and not designed to steer respondents towards a particular response, later questions in the poll are clearly designed to push voters towards a specific point of view and suggest themes that will be used as campaign season ramps up next year. Take this question that appears at the end of the poll, for example:

Some people say that John Kline is just part of the problem in Washington, D.C. He is part of the Republican leadership in Congress who continually put their extreme, Tea Party ideology ahead of what’s best for the country. They shut down the government in order to deny people health care, and even threatened to default on the debt, which would have sent the economy into chaos. How much does this concern you — a lot, a little, or not at all?

That question, coupled with another about Kline’s work as chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee suggest Democrats will attack Kline for ideological extremism and ties to the for-profit college industry.

Kline has a tremendous financial edge over Obermueller, with more than $1.3 million in his campaign account, more than 10 times Obermueller’s resources. While Obermueller can’t formally coordinate with groups such as the House Majority PAC, it’s likely those groups will try to make up the financial difference between the two candidates with TV ads if they perceive the race to be close. The group spent nearly $1.5 million in 2012 to help unseat GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack in Minnesota’s 8th District.