MPR/Humphrey Senate poll: It’s anybody’s race

The wags have been suggesting in the last 24 hours that Norm Coleman must have internal polling showing he’s in trouble. The latest MPR/U of M Humphrey Institute poll, however, doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know: Coleman is in a close race with Al Franken and Dean Barkley is in a position to play spoiler.

Franken holds a 41-to-37-percent lead over Coleman, within the poll’s margin of error. Franken isn’t exactly burning it up out there. His support, while 5% higher than it was in our poll two weeks ago, is exactly where it was in mid-August.

The wild card, however, is Barkley who has gained 9-percent since August. He’s also picked up 3-percent in the last two weeks, significant because by around now, Independence Party candidates (not named Ventura) tend to lose their way with voters.

Coleman has lost only 1 percent since the last survey, which indicates to me that Franken and Barkley split the undecided vote from the last survey.

Here are the major findings:

  • Franken is propelled by the same things that propelled Obama in Minnesota — the economy and antipathy toward George Bush.
  • Coleman leads Franken in issues of terrorism, but not the economy. And right now, it’s all about the economy.
  • Franken has “the youth vote” and does well among seniors.
  • The “negative thing” has turned against Coleman. He got a bounce for pulling the negative ads off the air, but he still has a reputation for negativity, which didn’t disappear.
  • Barkley is pulling support from Coleman. But Franken’s gap with Barack Obama is higher now than earlier in the campaign. Where’s the coattail?
  • More voters see Franken as “too liberal” than Coleman as “too conservative.” I’m not sure whether this is good or bad but it does call to mind former Republican boss Bill Cooper’s old complaint that Coleman wasn’t conservative enough.

    Here’s the entire poll (pdf format).

    • With Obama 20 pts up, it seems incredible that Franken wouldn’t benefit from Obama’s coattails. Besides, it is the most toxic environment for Republicans since polls first started. Barkley really helped Franken because he has to rely only upon Democrats, and he will win since there are substancially less Republicans in Minnesota. Frankly, I don’t blame Coleman for running scared (by the way, notice Coleman’s TV ads never identify him as a Republican?).

    • bsimon

      Given the political environment & the candidates running for the two big parties, it was the perfect year for an insurgent campaign from the IP candidate. Barkley has failed to take advantage of this enormous opportunity. His ad is a yawner that will not break through the significant noise coming from not only his competitors, but the Presidential campaigns & the tight races for Congress in the 3rd, 6th & now 2nd.

    • Chris

      Brad, not only that, take a look at Coleman’s yard signs. They’re A) blue, and B) have no party label attached.

      A couple thoughts. I noticed that McCain and Coleman are getting exactly the same level of support at 37% in the poll, while there’s a 15 point gap between Obama and Franken. On the surface, that would seem to indicate that Barkley is taking the most support from Franken.

      Buuuuut, I’ve also noticed that ever since the Playboy stuff came out in June, Franken’s been hovering around 40% in the polls, give or take a couple points, and hasn’t been able to move those numbers in any significant way. When it was a two-way race, Coleman was comfortably ahead, but when Barkley jumped in, Coleman’s support dropped to about level with Franken. That would seem to suggest that Barkley is mostly taking away support from Coleman.

      Hmm. Logically, in addition to Obama-Barkley voters, there could be a large number of McCain-Barkley and Obama-Coleman, and virtually no McCain-Franken voters, in the mix out there in order for all the polls to make sense. I have a hard time picturing what an Obama-Coleman voter would look like, outside of Star-Tribune editorial board members, but I suppose there have to be a few others out there as well.

      Lastly, I’m wondering if there’s going to be a big wave of same-day registrations that the polls aren’t picking up on. IIRC, that’s why Ventura ended up winning, because none of the pollsters had foreseen the upsurge in new people showing up. Will there be another deluge of new registrants on Election Day because of the presidential race, and will the people who show up vote a straight ticket?