The year before he will face voters for re-election, Gov. Mark Dayton got high job approval marks from more than half of Minnesotans and beat all potential Republican rivals pollster Public Policy Polling tested him against.
According to the poll, 53 percent of Minnesotans said they approve of the job the governor is doing. The vast majority of Minnesotans who call themselves liberal, very liberal or moderate said they think he is doing a good job. They were joined by 24 percent of people who said they were "somewhat conservative."
“He’s popular on his own merits, and none of his potential Republican opponents appear to be particularly strong at this point- most of them are unknown and the ones who are well known aren’t very popular," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling.
It is the second batch of numbers from the pollster that find Minnesota Republicans , who were trounced in 2012 and have a state party that is deep in debt, have a heavy lift between now and 2014 to beat the state's Democratic powers. On Tuesday, the pollster released numbers that found U.S. Sen. Al Franken in a strong position going into re-election next year.
The poll found Dayton would beat former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman 52 percent to 39 percent and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty 50 percent to 42 percent. Coleman has left the door open to a possible gubernatorial run; Pawlenty has, most recently, taken the possibility off the table.
More than half of the Republicans primary voters, who also told the pollster they wanted U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann to run against Franken next year, said they would prefer Coleman to run against Dayton when asked about possible candidates. No other Republican in the poll were picked as preferred candidates by more than 5 percent of Republicans.
None of the other potential candidates netted more than 30 percent of the statewide preference when matched against Dayton.
According to the poll, former state Rep. Keith Downey, who is running for GOP chair, would get 30 percent to Dayton's 53 percent; Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who has said he is considering a 2014 gubernatorial run, clocked in at 29 percent to Dayton's 53 percent. The poll found Dayton would also have a double digit advantage over state Sen. Julie Rosen, who is also open to a run, or former House Speaker Kurt Zellers.
The poll was conducted last weekend, before Dayton released his controversial budget proposal. It included 1065 Minnesota voters and 275 usual Republican primary voters. It has a margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points. For the Republican preference question, the margin of sampling error was 5.9 percent.
The poll included 39 percent Democrats, 29 percent Republicans and 33 percent independent or other. But 38 percent of those polled said they were somewhat or very conservative; 35 percent said they were somewhat or very liberal and 27 percent said they were moderate.