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Minnesota Poll: Wetterling leads Bachmann 48% to 40%

  • Article by: Eric Black
  • Star Tribune
  • October 17, 2006 - 7:25 PM

DFLer Patty Wetterling leads Republican Michele Bachmann 48 to 40 percent in the hot race for Congress in Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District, according to the latest Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.

Independence Party candidate John Binkowski received the support of 4 percent.

The poll, conducted Oct. 6-12, may have been influenced by the Mark Foley congressional page scandal, which brought attention to Wetterling because of her work as a child-safety advocate.

Those who said they know a lot about the Foley story, and those who said that it was affecting their vote favored Wetterling by a significant margin.

Negative feelings toward President Bush, opposition to the Iraq war and a belief that the country is on the wrong track all seemed to be hurting Bachmann, even in a district that Bush carried 57 percent to 42 percent in the 2004 election.

Wetterling did best among older voters and those with more education. Bachmann did best among younger voters and those with high school education or less.

Bachmann attracts support from 88 percent of Republicans, Wetterling from 86 percent of Democrats. But Wetterling outpolls Bachmann among self-described independent voters by 48 to 30 percent. The poll found that the district is almost evenly divided among DFLers, Republicans and independents.

The poll has a margin of sampling error of 4.5 percentage points.

Previous public polls have shown a range of results, mostly showing Bachmann ahead. Recently, they have shown the race tightening, and one previous poll showed Wetterling ahead by 5 percentage points. This is the first Minnesota Poll in the Bachmann-Wetterling race, a highly competitive contest for an open seat. The district, now represented by Mark Kennedy, who is running for Senate, stretches across the north metro area from the Wisconsin border to the St. Cloud area.

Like any poll, this is a snapshot of where the race stands on the days it is taken, not a prediction about the outcome.

Tsunami or blip?

The possible volatility in the race caused by the Foley story makes the numbers susceptible to two interpretations, said political scientist Lawrence Jacobs of the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute.

"This could be a sign of a political tsunami approaching the mainland in which Democrats can win even Republican-friendly districts, or it could be a momentary blip following the Foley scandal," he said.

"What's clear is that, depending on how the last weeks of the campaign go, the Republicans now face the possibility of dire results in this election."

A smattering of in-depth interviews with poll respondents suggests that many are voting more against than for one of the candidates.

Voters speak

Machinist Scot Tschida, 36, of Foley, plans to vote for Bachmann, but he's not enthusiastic about either candidate.

Wetterling lacks experience on issues other than child protection, he said. Although he sympathizes with the tragedy of her son's 1989 abduction, he feels Wetterling has "ridden that" for too long.

Tschida, who opposes abortion, said that if Wetterling is really a children's advocate, she should advocate for unborn children as well. Wetterling supports abortion rights.

Sheri Gangle, 37, a St. Cloud Republican and full-time mom, said she would vote for Bachmann because "I could never vote for Wetterling" and because "I don't believe in changing parties, especially in times like this, times when you should support your president."

Anne Dimock, 54, of Afton, a writer and political independent, said, "I'm for Wetterling in large part because I'm against Bachmann."

Dimock has followed Bachmann since her 1999 race for school board and views her as "an extreme conservative, even for a Republican. ... I don't think she really is in favor of public education. I do not trust her. I think she is part of a very conservative right-wing Republican cadre who are evangelical Christians and who want to foist their view of the world on the rest of us."

DFLer and salesperson Jill Joseph, 46, of Avon favors Wetterling "because of her efforts on children's issues, because she's very in tune with the community, because she'll help with education and seniors issues and because I believe she'll be true to her word and fight for what she's campaigning for."

Campaigns react

Bachmann campaign manager Andy Parrish said that Bachmann has been "consistently up in the polls, and we feel comfortable with where we're at now."

Wetterling campaign manager Corey Day said: "Its pretty obvious that Patty's message of hope, opportunity and promise for Minnesota's families is beating the cynical, extremist positions taken by politician Michele Bachmann."

Eric Black • eblack@startribune.com

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