ST. PAUL, Minn. - With just days to go until the election, a new poll finds Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama maintaining a commanding lead over Republican John McCain in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Public Radio News/University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute poll released Thursday finds Obama with a 19 percentage point lead among likely voters over McCain in Minnesota, 56 percent to 37 percent. Six percent were undecided.
"If I'm a John McCain supporter, I'm concerned," University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs said. "This is just not good news."
The pollsters questioned 451 likely voters by telephone between last Friday and Tuesday. The poll has a margin of sampling error of 4.6 percentage points.
Pollsters found the economy and jobs was named as the top concern by nearly two-thirds of likely voters, and among those who think the economy is the most important issue Obama holds a 25 percentage point lead.
"There's really no evidence here that McCain has been able to overcome the basic hurdles that he started the campaign with which is that the economy is working for Barack Obama," Jacobs said. "The financial crisis played just into the Obama strategy that the country is headed in the wrong direction. That's a view shared by more than eight out of 10 Minnesota voters. That's breaking decisively for Obama."
The poll also finds that Obama has a large lead over McCain among independent voters, Jacobs said. The poll finds that the Illinois senator has built a 33-point advantage over likely voters earning less than $50,000 a year, an indication that McCain's "Joe the plumber" strategy has not caught on here.
A Big Ten Battleground Poll of registered voters and those likely to register released last week also found Obama up 19 points in Minnesota. A Star Tribune Minnesota Poll of likley voters from two weeks ago found Obama with an 11-point lead in the state.
The latest findings come as McCain, behind in the polls, dilutes previous ad buys at Twin Cities television stations. And, in a sign that Obama's own polls have him confident of a win in Minnesota, which has not gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972, his campaign has cut $100,000 in ads that were scheduled to run on WCCO and KARE.
McCain's Minnesota campaign manager, Ben Golnik, said the Arizona senator isn't giving up on the state. He said former President Bill Clinton wouldn't be campaigning in Minneapolis Thursday night for Obama and Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken if the race weren't close.
"The poll we're most concerned about is Election Day," Golnik told MPR News. "We're just five or six days away from that and we're focused on continuing to spread the McCain/Palin message and simply reminding people how stark the differences are between these two candidates on the key issues facing Minnesota and facing the country."
But the poll finds Obama is leading McCain in most areas. Along with his big lead among independent voters, Obama leads among white voters, among voters with both high school and college diplomas and among new voters. Jacobs said Obama's supporters are also more enthusiastic about the election than McCain's.
"There's about two-thirds of Minnesotans who are tremendously interested and excited about this race and Obama's got about a 40-point lead among enthusiastic voters," Jacobs said. "So he's got to turn those people out and make sure they don't take this thing for granted."
Jeff Blodgett, who heads Obama's Minnesota campaign, said he's not surprised that voters are responding to Obama's message on the economy. But, he said he's not paying attention to the poll numbers. Instead, he said the campaign is making the final push to get Obama's supporters to the polls on Election Day.
"The McCain campaign is really contesting this state hard," Blodgett said. "They have been for two months and so the best thing to do for our campaign organization to do is put its head down with six days to go and run as hard as it can, finish the job and get every voter out who is going to vote for Barack Obama."
Officials with both campaigns say no visits by the candidates or their running mates to Minnesota are scheduled at this point.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mpr.org