Rep. Erik Paulsen’s DFL challenger Jim Meffert released a new campaign-sponsored poll Tuesday along with a declaration that the freshman congressman is the “most vulnerable incumbent House member in Minnesota.”

The numbers tell a more complex story, however.

In the poll of 400 likely voters, 44 percent said they would vote for Paulsen, compared with 22 percent for Meffert. Seven percent opted for an Independence Party candidate who has raised no money, while the remaining 26 percent were undecided.

The margin of error is +/-4.9%.

The takeaway? Paulsen holds a solid 22-point lead over his opponent, though he remains under the crucial 50-percent margin.

Meffert will need those undecided voters if he wants to close the gap, which will take money that he doesn’t have. He had $48,000 on hand as of July 1, more than a million dollars less than Paulsen’s war chest.

Meffert’s camp notes that only 30 percent of respondents viewed Paulsen’s job performance as “excellent” or “good.” They also point to the fact that only 33 percent said they will vote to re-elect Paulsen this year – though only 12 percent said they would vote to replace him.

On paper, the race just west of the Twin Cities has the potential to be competitive since Paulsen is a freshman representing an area that narrowly supported Obama. But Meffert’s sluggish fundraising could be a major hurdle if he wants to pose a threat in November.

"I think Erik Paulsen is well-positioned to win because he's been fighting against reckless spending and taxes," Paulsen campaign manager Tim Commers said in response to the poll. "And Jim Meffert supports those things."

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