Good morning, and welcome to Monday and the start of a fresh work week. There’s a lot to talk about so let’s go right to the Digest.
1. New poll shows Klobuchar with big lead, Smith with smaller lead. Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith are leading their Republican challengers in the race for the U.S. Senate, but Smith is in a much tighter contest in an unexpected special election, according to the latest MPR News/Star Tribune Minnesota Poll. Smith leads Republican nominee Karin Housley 47-41 percent in the race for her seat in the Senate, according to the poll of 800 likely voters. That’s a 1-percentage point gain for Housley since the last Minnesota Poll in September. Of those polled, though, 10 percent said they are still undecided and 2 percent said they plan to vote for another candidate. That means the race could still swing either way on Nov. 6. Klobuchar leads her Republican opponent Jim Newberger 56-33 percent. The poll of 800 likely voters also shows 52 percent said they think it is the responsibility of the federal government to ensure all Americans have health care insurance. Of those polled, 40 percent said it’s not the government’s responsibility, while 8 percent were unsure. And an overwhelming 70 percent of respondents said they support proposals letting people buy in to public health insurance programs including Medicare and MinnesotaCare, which Democrats like Smith are pitching on the campaign trail. The poll, conducted by Mason Dixon Polling & Strategy between Oct. 15-17, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. (MPR News)
2. The poll also shows the governor’s race tightening but Tim Walz still in the lead. Democrat Tim Walz leads in the race to be Minnesota’s next governor, but Republican Jeff Johnson has gained ground with about two weeks until Election Day, according to the latest MPR News/Star Tribune Minnesota Poll. A survey of 800 likely voters shows Walz leading Johnson 45-39 percent. In September the Minnesota Poll showed Walz with a 9-point lead. And the latest poll shows there are still enough undecided voters to swing the race either way on Nov. 6. Twelve percent of respondents said they were unsure of who they will vote for in the race. That’s down from 16 percent who were undecided in September. One key issue for the next governor — a possible transportation tax hike — doesn’t entirely track the candidate results. Walz supports a higher gas tax; Johnson is against it. A majority of respondents in the poll — 56 percent — are on board with a 10-cent increase to the per-gallon tax to pay for road and bridge projects. The support was consistent around the state and robust among Democrats and self-identified independents. (MPR News)
3. Walz and Johnson debate on TV. KSTP-TV held a marathon day of debates Sunday. About the only major party candidate who didn’t show up was DFL U.S. Senate candidate Tina Smith. During their hourlong debate, Johnson played the aggressor although Walz gave it back to his rival at times. As he has throughout his campaign, Johnson said tax increases are off the table for specific initiatives or to salvage a state budget if the economy falters. “I’m not going to raise taxes, I’ve made that very clear,” Johnson said, adding that Minnesota could extract budget savings by more closely policing public health and welfare programs to weed out people who shouldn’t be eligible, scrapping a state insurance exchange for the federal version and auditing other programs to determine which aren’t working properly. Walz said he won’t let Minnesota fall back into a cycle of accounting shifts that paper over problems or push the state burden down the line. He supports a gas tax increase for transportation. “I’m not willing to not invest where we need to,” he said. Johnson said Walz “has promised the world to everybody” but hasn’t been as clear about what other taxes might rise to cover the costs. (MPR News) (KSTP)
4. AG debate is combative session. It was a brawl from start to finish in the only head-to-head debate between the two contenders for Minnesota attorney general. During their KSTP TV debate Sunday night, Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and former GOP state Rep. Doug Wardlow repeatedly labeled the other as too extreme to be the state’s top lawyer. They went after each other on the role of the attorney general, the abuse allegations which Ellison again denied, who would politicize the office and each other’s records. (MPR News)
5. Both parties eye key races in battle for control of Minnesota House. Democrats are in a good position to pick up seats in the Minnesota House of Representatives on Election Day, but face a steep climb to flip the chamber from Republican control. House leaders of both parties are predictably upbeat about their chances of winning a majority of seats. “We think we have a very good chance of taking it back,” House DFL Minority Leader Melissa Hortman said. But House Republican Speaker Kurt Daudt said he’s “very confident” his party will prevail, in part because “we aren’t just on defense. We are on offense in quite a few districts.” History may be on Hortman’s side. Midterm elections are almost never good for the president’s party, and this election is likely to be a referendum on President Trump, whose approval ratings are low in recent polls. (Pioneer Press)