Two new Minnesota Public Radio/Humphrey Institute polls find the state’s U.S. Senate race is tightening.
Democratic challenger Al Franken
went from 9 percentage points behind to 4 points ahead of Republican incumbent Norm Coleman after congressional approval of the Wall Street bailout plan.
The poll surveyed 346 likely voters three days before last Thursday’s vice presidential debate.
A second survey of 418 likely voters was conducted three days after last Thursday’s debate and after Congress approved the $700 billion bailout package.
While those numbers have Franken overtaking Coleman, Franken’s lead is within the margin of error — which was about 5 percent in both polls — leaving the two candidates in a statistical dead heat. Franken was at 41 percent to Coleman at 37 percent.
Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley’s support held steady at 14 percent before and after the plan was approved.
Coleman voted for the Wall Street bailout in the U.S. Senate, while Franken said he would have voted against it because it didn’t do enough to protect taxpayers. Poll director Larry Jacobs said that’s likely the biggest culprit for Coleman’s drop in support.
“He is really suffering the consequences,” Jacobs said.
Before the bailout, Jacobs said, 80 percent of those polled said they thought the country was headed in the wrong direction. After, that number had risen to 87 percent.
With such a close contest less than a month before Election Day, Jacobs said turning out supporters will be critical for both candidates. He said an analysis of combined data from the two polls showed Franken’s supporters are more excited about the election than are Coleman’s.
But the poll did have a warning for Franken, too — he had the support of 63 percent of Democrats, compared with Coleman’s 80 percent support among Republicans.
Most Minnesota voters also believe Franken is too liberal.
The two polls also found that likely voters by a more than two-to-one margin blame Coleman more than Franken for the negative tone of advertising in the Senate race. Four in 10 told pollsters they’re less likely to vote for the more negative candidate.
A Star Tribune Minnesota Poll conducted last Tuesday through Thursday showed Franken with a 43-34 lead over Coleman, with Barkley at 18 percent.
A Survey USA poll done last Tuesday and Wednesday gave Coleman a 43-33 advantage over Franken, with Barkley at 19 percent.