MPR Poll: Obama widens lead in the stateby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
With less than a week to go until Election Day, a new poll shows Democrat Barack Obama with a commanding lead over Republican John McCain in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Public Radio News/ University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute poll shows Obama widening his lead over McCain to nearly 20 percentage points. And, that Obama has surged ahead because of growing concern over the struggling economy.
St. Paul, Minn. — The latest poll shows Barack Obama with a 19 percentage point lead over John McCain in Minnesota. Fifty-six percent of the likely voters polled say they're voting for Obama, while 37 percent say they're backing McCain. Six percent are still undecided.
The MPR News/Humphrey Institute survey was conducted of 721 Minnesotans, including 451 likely voters, between Oct. 24 and Oct. 28. The margin of error is 4.25 points. For the smaller subgroup of 451 likely voters the margin of sampling error is larger, 4.6 percent.
University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs said it clearly looks like Obama will pick up Minnesota's 10 electoral votes.
"If I'm a John McCain supporter, I'm concerned," Jacobs said. "This is just not good news."
Jacobs said the economy is the top concern among Minnesotans polled. Jacobs said six out of 10 rate the economy and jobs as their top concern. Among those voters, Obama has a clear advantage over McCain.
"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."
Jacobs said the poll also shows Obama has a large lead over McCain among independent voters. The poll shows that the Illinois senator has built a 33 point advantage over voters earning less than $50,000 a year, an indication that McCain's "Joe the plumber" strategy has not caught on here.
The findings come at a time when McCain's campaign appears to be less optimistic about winning Minnesota. Governor Pawlenty, who co-chairs the McCain campaign, said earlier this week that it would be difficult for McCain to win the state. McCain has also cut back on his ad spending at TV stations.
And, in a sign that Obama's own polls have him confident of a win here, his campaign has cut $100,000 in ads that were scheduled to run on WCCO and KARE.
But Ben Golnik, McCain's Minnesota campaign manager, said the Arizona Senator isn't giving up on the state. He said former President Bill Clinton wouldn't be campaigning in Minneapolis tonight for Obama and Democrat Al Franken if the race weren't close.
"The poll we're most concerned about is Election Day," Golnik said. "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 shows that 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, with the University of Minnesota, 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 forty-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."
That job belongs to Jeff Blodgett, who heads Obama's Minnesota campaign. Blodgett 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."
It isn't certain whether Minnesota will see a last minute visit from either of the candidates or their running mates. Officials with both campaigns say no visits are scheduled at this point.
That would be a departure from 2000 and 2004. Both President Bush and Al Gore made stops in Minnesota in the final week of the campaign in 2000. Bush and John Kerry also stumped in the state in the final two weeks of the 2004 campaign.
- Morning Edition, 10/30/2008, 7:20 a.m.