Gubernatorial candidate Hubert Humphrey III would beat his five fellow DFLers in a party primary race if it were held now, the latest Star Tribune/KMSP-TV Minnesota Poll shows.
And Attorney General Humphrey, who increased his visibility among Minnesotans with the state's recent $7 billion tobacco settlement, also would beat any of the three major Republican candidates, including St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, in the general election, the poll found.
But of the Republicans, Coleman runs the strongest against Humphrey, the poll found.
"From my standpoint, I'm pleased with these early results," said Humphrey, who tempered his satisfaction with some caution. "We're a long ways from September and November."
In the Republican primary field, Coleman enjoys a substantial lead over his two main rivals.
"It shows what all the other polls have shown," said Chris Georgacas, Coleman's campaign manager. "Mayor Coleman is the strongest Republican to face the strongest candidate the DFL has to offer."
Humphrey's strong showing comes on the eve of the Minnesota DFL Party convention, which starts Friday in St. Cloud and where delegates are expected to endorse Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman for governor.
In the DFL primary race, the poll shows Humphrey leading Freeman and former State Auditor Mark Dayton by more than 2 to 1. Humphrey was favored by 38 percent of likely DFL primary voters; Freeman and Dayton each received 15 percent.
Former state Sen. Ted Mondale was favored by 10 percent, followed by Sen. John Marty of Roseville (7 percent) and Sen. Doug Johnson of Tower (5 percent). Ten percent had no opinion.
Humphrey's popularity may cause some of the 1,449 DFL delegates to ponder whether they should bestow the party's mantle on the only candidate who has pledged to honor the convention's endorsing system (Freeman) or the one who so far is favored by most of the likely voters (Humphrey).
Humphrey has said he intends to run in the Sept. 15 primary election no matter whom the party endorses.
The poll results don't change his mind or his strategy, Humphrey said Thursday. "I've been asking sincerely for support of DFL delegates. I'm the underdog going into the DFL convention; I think I'm still there."
To win endorsement, a candidate needs a minimum of 60 percent of the convention delegates' votes.
Kathy Czar, the party's executive director, said, "Electability is one of the factors that the delegates are concerned about. . . . Both candidates have good blocs of supporters. There is a sizable number of undecided. . . . I imagine the polls will figure in the persuasion that's going on."
On Wednesday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press/Minnesota Public Radio/KARE-TV Poll also showed that Humphrey enjoyed a lead over his fellow DFLers and would defeat the leading Republican, Coleman.
Jon Youngdahl, Freeman's campaign manager, put his best face on the poll numbers.