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The biggest takeaway from the Strib’s latest Minnesota Poll article is that Jeff Johnson has cut Gov. Dayton’s lead in half:

Gov. Mark Dayton maintains a lead over Republican Jeff Johnson in a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, but Johnson gained some ground while Dayton’s support stayed flat.

The poll taken Oct. 20-22 shows Dayton leading Johnson, 45 percent to 38 percent, with Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet at 5 percent. In September, the poll showed Dayton at 45, Johnson at 33 and Nicollet at 1 percent. With Election Day just over a week away, the DFL governor has shown a consistent polling advantage.

More Minnesotans also now say they have made up their minds about the race, with 10 percent still undecided, compared to 20 percent five weeks ago. They would have to break in large numbers for Johnson if he is to overcome Dayton’s lead.

Jeff Johnson is still fighting an uphill fight. Still, he’s got to be happy that he’s closing the gap while he’s getting better name recognition.

Johnson’s campaign has leveled charges of incompetence against Dayton, and spokesman Jeff Bakken said the Star Tribune poll shows Johnson has room to catch up and pass Dayton amid a national political climate that Republicans see as favorable. “All the momentum in this race is on Jeff’s side, and the result is going to come down to turnout,” Bakken said. “And in the midterm election in this political environment, we like Jeff’s odds.”

The DFL’s GOTV operation is generally thought of as being superior to the GOP’s GOTV operation. This election will tell the tale of whether those reputations are deserved or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if the GOP’s GOTV operation performed better than expected.

Today marks the start of the final sprint to the finish line. Thanks to these poll results, it’s likely to be an interesting finish.

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After last night’s bombshell polling data from Minnesota’s Eighth District, the next questions are quite logical. First, when will the DCCC and Nancy Pelosi’s PAC pull their money from the Mills-Nolan race? Second, when that money is pulled, where will it be spent?

The conventional wisdom is that the money pulled from Nolan’s race would be spent on Collin Peterson’s race. I don’t think that’s what they’ll decide. They’ve already pumped millions of dollars into the Westrom-Peterson race. It hasn’t hurt Westrom a bit. Next, they’ve thrown everything at Torrey, including the proverbial kitchen sink. Torrey Westrom keeps gaining. In fact, Torrey will campaign tomorrow with Mike McFadden:

McFadden knows that his message sells in the Seventh. He’s campaigned with Torrey before, too. It’s obvious that they feed off each other and complement each other nicely. Why would Pelosi’s superPAC or the DCCC shift money into that situation?

Finally and most importantly, a little money pays for tons of ads in the 7th. How much more money does Collin Peterson need to win that race? People know Peterson because he’s finishing his twelfth term. If the first and second ad buys didn’t put Peterson over the top, why would the DCCC think that the third and fourth ad buys will? Known commodities are known commodities. If they don’t sell right away, they won’t jump off the shelf later.

Pelosi’s superPAC and the DCCC have other seats that need propping up. Nolan’s seat is history. He’s an ancient candidate whose policies are from the 1970s. There’s nothing that indicates he’ll catch fire in the last 2 weeks.

Peterson has a better shot at winning but that’s because he’s frequently won with over 60% of the vote. He’s either popular and heading for victory or people have tired of him and he’s heading for defeat. There isn’t a middle ground with him.

Ken Martin, the DFL, Steve Simon, Gov. Dayton and Sen. Franken are watching these races. That’s because they know their races are based, at least partially, on doing well in these districts. If Nolan and Peterson lose, Gov. Dayton’s, Sen. Franken’s and the DFL’s path to victory gets complicated fast.

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Friends, this is as close to a GOP trifecta as we’ve seen in quite some time:

Stewart Mills leads Rick Nolan
Minnesota’s Secretary of State race heats up
Westrom leads Peterson in private polling

If the MNGOP wins these three races, it’ll be a big night for Minnesota Republicans. It’s still too early to predict victories in these races but I’d rather be the Republican in each of these races than be the Democrat.

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After watching this CNN video on the Pat Roberts-Greg Orman Kansas Senate race, it’s starting to look like Sen. Roberts will hold the seat:

This poll isn’t good news for Orman:

1. As you may know, there will be no Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate on the ballot in Kansas this November. If the election for U.S. Senate were held today and the candidates were Greg Orman, the Independent, and Pat Roberts, the Republican, who would you be more likely to vote for? (IF UNSURE:) As of today, who do you lean more toward? (RANDOM ORDER)
Roberts Orman (vol.) (vol.) opinion
Likely Voters:
Roberts 49%, Orman 48%
Registered Voters:
Orman 49%, Roberts 46%

This isn’t good news for Democrats:

Two Republican incumbents are fighting to keep their jobs in Kansas. The new Fox News poll finds both of them, Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback, have jumped ahead of their challengers.

When the first batch of polling came out for Kansas, Democrats were practically giddy. They thought that Kansas would be a firewall in saving the Senate. Each week, several GOP senators campaign with Roberts. That appears to have changed the trajectory of the race. With more GOP senators on their way down the stretch and with significantly more registered Republicans than Democrats in Kansas, this race appears to be returning to normal order.

The Fox Poll didn’t bring good news for Democrats in other states either. Here’s an example:

Likely voters in Alaska are unhappy with President Obama and don’t think much of his health care plan. That helps give Republican Dan Sullivan a 44-40 percent advantage over Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Begich.

Then there’s Arkansas:

Republican challenger Tom Cotton is up seven points over Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor among Arkansas likely voters (46 percent vs. 39 percent).

After that, it’s Colorado:

Republicans in Colorado are much more enthusiastic than Democrats about the upcoming election, and that explains, at least in part, why the new poll shows Rep. Cory Gardner topping Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall by 43-37 percent.

Mitch McConnell didn’t increase his lead against Alison Lundergan-Grimes but she didn’t close it, either, which is good news for Sen. McConnell:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is narrowly ahead of Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, 45-41 percent, among Kentucky likely voters.

Iowa is still a tight race but it looks like momentum is on Joni Ernst’s side:

The Marist poll shows Ernst up by three, 46 to 43 percent, which is an improvement on the 43 to 43 percent tie Marist posted when they last polled the race in July.

The Loras poll shows Ernst and Brady tied at 43 percent, which is a huge improvement on the 41 to 45 percent deficit Loras found when they last polled the race in September.

And the YouGov poll, which shows Ernst trailing 43 to 44 percent, is a small improvement for Ernst over YouGov’s August poll which had Braley up 44 to 42 percent.

If Republicans hold Kansas and Kentucky, which looks likely, Democrats will have a difficult time keeping their majority. If Ernst and Gardner win their races, which looks increasingly possible, Harry Reid should start packing because he’ll be in a smaller office next January.

In other news, Mary Landrieu fired her campaign manager. That isn’t the ideal way to inspire supporters. At this point, it’s possible that Republicans will pick up a net 8 seats in the Senate. If that happens, Republicans will celebrate momentarily. Then they’ll sit down and figure out how to push a positive, pro-growth economic agenda. That’s a gigantic change. It means Harry Reid won’t have a pocket veto over GOP legislation, which means Democrats will have to cast some difficult votes.

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According to the latest Marquette Law School Poll, Scott Walker’s surge is continuing:

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School Poll in the Wisconsin governor’s race finds Republican Gov. Scott Walker receiving the support of 50 percent of likely voters and Democratic challenger Mary Burke receiving 45 percent support. Another 3 percent say that they are undecided or that they do not know whom they will support, while 1 percent say that they will vote for someone else. Likely voters are those who say they are certain to vote in the November election.

Among registered voters, Walker receives 46 percent and Burke 45 percent, with 4 percent undecided and 1 percent saying they will vote for someone else. This is the first time since March a candidate has held a lead outside the margin of error among likely voters. The results for registered voters remain inside the margin of error. (See clarification above.)

In the previous Marquette poll, conducted Sept. 11-14, Walker held a 49-46 edge over Burke among likely voters and registered voters tied at 46 percent support for each candidate.

I wrote this post less than a week ago. Here’s what I said then:

At a time when people are satisfied with how things are going, it isn’t helping that Ms. Burke is seen as a marketing specialist. Wisconsinites are looking for a policy wonk, a solutions-oriented person with Wisconsin’s best interests at heart. Throughout this fiasco, Burke hasn’t fit that part. That’s why the wheels keep falling off the bus.

This poll is verifiable proof that I was right about Scott Walker’s surge. If Mary Burke doesn’t do something to stem this pro-Walker tide, she’ll lose. Here’s why:

A large gender gap is present in voting for both governor and attorney general. Among likely voters, Walker leads among men with 62 percent to 34 percent for Burke. Among women, Burke leads with 54 percent to Walker’s 40 percent. With registered voters, Walker leads among men 54-39 percent while Burke leads among women 50-40 percent.

It isn’t surprising that men favor Republicans or that women prefer Democrats. That’s been happening for years, if not decades. What’s news is that Walker is favored by men by a 2:1 margin. That’s stunning and unprecedented.

If Burke doesn’t narrow that gap by at least 10 points, she’ll get beaten like a drum.

If Gov. Walker’s surge continues another week, the RGA could then focus more attention on other competitive gubernatorial race, like the one in Minnesota. If that happens, things will get real interesting real quick.

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The latest Des Moines Register (DMR) poll isn’t the type of news Bruce Braley and Harry Reid were looking for:

The ground under Bruce Braley has shifted. The Democratic U.S. Senate candidate is 6 points behind his GOP rival, Joni Ernst, according to The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa Poll of likely voters. Ernst leads 44 percent to 38 percent in a race that has for months been considered deadlocked. She leads nearly 4-1 with rural voters, and is up double digits with independents.

“Very interesting, and good news not just for Ernst but also for the GOP’s chances of taking the U.S. Senate,” said national political prognosticator Larry Sabato of “Sabato’s Crystal Ball.”

That’s the type of news that’ll give Joni Ernst an extra lift in her step. The horserace number isn’t the only part of the poll that should worry Braley’s campaign. Here’s another poll result that should frighten Braley:

And he’s suffering badly with rural voters. Only 15 percent support him compared with 58 percent for Ernst.

Losing farmers in Iowa by a 4:1 margin is the fastest path to defeat. That isn’t Braley’s only obstacle to overcome:

“I think he has an attitude about the voters and life in general which was indicated by what he said about Chuck Grassley,” said Democrat Dianna Fuhrmeister, a poll respondent who grows garden vegetables for a living in rural Iowa City. “He thinks he knows better than us.”

That’s why Ernst wins rural voters by a 4:1 margin. If there’s anything that’ll get a rural voter’s dander up, it’s being talked down to by a city slicker.

Fuhrmeister, who is registered as a Democrat but considers herself an independent, said her mind is made up to vote for Ernst, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard. “She’s the veteran. She seems to have common sense,” she said.

Ernst’s lead isn’t insurmountable…if Braley finishes strong. I’m not holding my breath on that happening. Politico isn’t waiting for that to happen, either:

Braley’s remark, made at a private fundraiser in Texas last winter, seemingly disparaged Iowa’s popular 33-year senator for being a farmer, not a lawyer. Braley apologized to Grassley after the caught-on-tape remark was released in March. But that gaffe and others prompted the national political news outlet Politico last week to slot Braley’s campaign as No. 1 on its list of “the worst campaigns of 2014.”

Ernst has run a smart campaign that’s getting notice by the brightest lights in the conservative movement:

The Machine Shed restaurant, where the waitresses wear bib overalls and suggest a cinnamon roll the size of a loaf of bread as a breakfast appetizer, sells a root beer called Dang!, bandages made to look like bacon strips, and signs that proclaim, “I love you more than bacon.” For Joni Ernst, however, the apposite sign reads, “No one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side.”

She, nourished by a cinnamon roll, is preparing for a bus tour taking her Senate candidacy to all of Iowa’s 99 counties, and she seems to love campaigning even more than bacon, not that any proper Iowa farm girl, her description of herself, would publicly rank bacon second to anything.

As more Iowans tune into the Ernst-Braley race, the more they’ll gravitate towards Ernst, partially because of her farm girl image, partially because she’s a military vet and mostly because she isn’t Bruce Braley.

The DMR poll is the most respected poll in Iowa. If Joni Ernst finishes strong, she’ll replace Tom Harkin in the U.S. Senate.

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Just minutes ago, I received this email announcement from the Westrom for Congress campaign:

Westrom Announces Endorsement from Ambassador John Bolton

(ALEXANDRIA, Minn.) – Torrey Westrom, the Republican nominee for Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District, today announced the endorsement of former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton.

“I am honored to have Ambassador Bolton’s endorsement and I share his commitment to strengthening America’s national security,” Westrom said in a statement. “Now, more than ever, it is critical that we maintain a strong national defense and sophisticated military in the face of growing international threats from groups like ISIS. When in Congress, I will fight tirelessly on behalf of western Minnesota for strong national defense and American leadership abroad.”

In his endorsing statement, Ambassador Bolton said, “Torrey has fought for what’s right his whole life and I am confident he will take this commitment to Washington, and lead on conservative policies that impact Minnesota, America, and our concerns overseas.”

Ambassador Bolton served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations from 2005-2006, and served as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001-2005.

This is a little different than other endorsements because Ambassador Bolton isn’t a politician. It’ll be interesting to see what impact this will have but it’s interesting from this standpoint: Politicians aren’t held in high regard. People have much more respect for diplomats than they have for politicians.

Further, Ambassador Bolton is a straight-talking diplomat, which is definitely a rarity. That’s definitely something we haven’t seen from the Obama administration. It’s important to couple Ambassador Bolton’s endorsement with this news:

The Westrom campaign has released new internal polling numbers that report Republican Torrey Westrom is essentially tied within the margin of error, with 12-term incumbent Democrat Congressman Collin Peterson. Attached is a memorandum from our pollster, Brian Tringali of The Tarrance Group, that underlines key figures and points to an extremely favorable environment for Westrom, the challenger.

The ballot score reports an incredibly close race. 12-term incumbent Congressman Collin Peterson sits well below the majority threshold with just 45% of the ballot share, while Westrom is just 5-points behind with 40% support. Fully 15% are still undecided.

Important to note, the Westrom camp has yet to air a single television ad. Peterson has been on the air for two weeks running positive spots, while in contrast the DCCC is airing negative attack ads against Westrom.

The Tarrance Group is a well-respected Republican polling organization. When I first heard about them, Ed Goeas was the chief pollster. If this poll is accurate, then Collin Peterson is in trouble. The fact that Peterson is well below 50% even though Sen. Westrom hasn’t run a single TV ad isn’t good news for Peterson. It’s bad news for Peterson that 2 weeks of DCCC attack ads haven’t stopped Torrey’s momentum.

There’s no question that it’ll be a tight race to the finish. Still, Peterson’s campaign can’t be happy at this point.

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John Hinderaker’s post is must-reading for GOP political consultants, especially those who think that supporting amnesty is a must.

Still, I have never understood the claim that open borders is a winning political issue for the Democrats. That is borne out in the most recent Rasmussen Reports survey:

Most voters don’t want any of the young illegal immigrants who’ve recently arrived here housed in their state and say any legislation passed by Congress to deal with the problem should focus on sending them home as soon as possible.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 59% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the primary focus of any new immigration legislation passed by Congress should be to send the young illegal immigrants back home as quickly as possible. Just 27% say it should focus instead on making it easier for these illegal immigrants to remain in the United States. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

For those DC consultants that think supporting Lindsey Graham-John McCain style amnesty is essential, it’s time they started listening to the people. It’s time they started thinking about following the facts, not conventional wisdom.

Believing the lying bastards at La Raza is foolish. Ditto with trusting Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid. These senators and organizations couldn’t find the mainstream of American politics with a GPS and an unlimited supply of gas. John’s advice is spot on:

If Republicans unite around the position that all or substantially all of the most recent wave of illegal entrants should be sent back to their home countries as soon as possible, it will give them a big boost as the election season begins to heat up.

Winning 60% of the vote of people who rate immigration their top issue is a winning proposition. It’s all upside, no downside. Put differently, it’s a winner.

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Tim Pugmire’s article on the Senate Office Building highlights the DFL’s misplaced priorities and the DFL’s campaign year spin:

A recent KSTP poll found the public disapproval of the building at 68 percent. The four Republicans trying to unseat Dayton are making it a campaign issue, and so are their allies. The group Americans for Prosperity highlighted the issue in a new radio ad slamming Dayton.

“Let’s not forget that he spent $90 million for a brand new office building for state Senators…and new offices for himself too,” an announcer says in the ad. “So, Mark Dayton is building places for politicians while we struggle to make ends meet.”

Here’s House Majority Leader Erin Murphy’s spin on the DFL’s disaster:

“It’s not coming up for Minnesotans. It’s not coming up as I’m talking to our members, and they’re out door knocking already,” said Murphy, DFL-St. Paul. “So, I understand that the Republicans think it’s an issue that they can use to drive division, and they will spend their time talking about that. “We’re going to spend our time talking about the future of Minnesota.”

That’s what’s known as whistling past the graveyard. Rep. Murphy wishes this wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately for her and the DFL, wishing won’t make it so. It’s an issue because it’s another instance where the legislature ignored the will of the people.

The DFL can spin this all it wants. The numbers tell the tale. People understand that it’s wrong to spend $90,000,000 on a building that’ll be used 3-5 months a year.

This issue ties into another issue that’ll hurt the DFL, which is that they increased spending by $6,000,000,000 this biennium over the 2012-13 biennium. It’s right for Minnesotans to ask what they got for that spending. The answer is simple.

They didn’t get much. There’s still a mega-sized achievement gap in K-12 education. Incompetence is the rule, not the exception, in the MnSCU system. Iconic companies are leaving Minnesota. MNsure is still a mess. MNsure didn’t work when it launched. What’s worse is that it won’t be fixed this fall, either.

In short, the DFL spent money foolishly and in record amounts. What’s worse is that the DFL specialized in growing incompetence, not prosperity. As a result, Minnesotans paid higher taxes without getting a benefit.

As such, the Senate Office Building is the perfect symbol of what happens when the DFL controls the levers of the state government.

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I wrote this post about the shock Sen. Franken and Gov. Dayton got from the first KSTP-SurveyUSA poll of the election season. At the time, I didn’t notice the results of some other polling questions. For instance, this question was asked: All 134 members of the Minnesota House of Representatives are up for re-election this November. If the election were held today, would you most likely vote for a Republican or a Democrat in your local House of Representatives race? Or would you vote for a member of another party? Here’s the result of that poll:

According to the poll, 36% of likely voters this November will be Democrats, 32% will be Republicans while 29% will be independents. Also, party solidarity is exceptional for both parties, with 95% of Republicans saying that they’ll vote for a Republican legislator and 92% of Democrats saying that they’ll vote for a DFL legislator.

The key stat for this question is that 40% of independents say that they’re likely to vote for a Republican while only 28% of independents say that they’re likely to vote for the DFL. First, that’s well outside the margin of error. Next, that’s a gigantic gap, especially in light of the solidarity of the partisan numbers.

If 95% of self-identified Republicans vote for a Republican and 92% of Democrats vote for a DFL candidate, independent voters will tip the scales. At this point, that means that they’ll tip the scales in the Republicans’ favor. With Republicans only needing a net gain of 7 sets to retake control of the House of Representatives, I suspect that they’ll retake the majority.

Another interesting statistic from the polling relates to the McFadden-Franken race. First, here’s the horserace results:

Other than the tight race, what’s interesting is that McFadden leads Franken amongst young voters (age 18-34) by a 43%-39% margin. Franken still leading but he’s got to be worried about the tightness of the race and how he’s underperforming with millenials. Couple that with his PolyMet problems and his turnout worries and he’s got a right to sound frantic with his fundraising emails.

The KSTP-SurveyUSA poll isn’t good news for Gov. Dayton, Sen. Franken or the DFL. They’ve got lots of problems to solve. Republicans are fired up. They aren’t worried about voter intensity. If they work hard to turn out their voters, they’ll do well, including in areas that they haven’t traditionally done well in.

The DFL, however, is rightfully worried about voter turnout. They admitted that at their state convention in Duluth a couple weeks ago. Couple that with a tight race at the start of summer and the fact that Republicans will get tons of attention because they’ve got a competitive primary for governor.

The DFL’s divisions are real. They sidestepped them at the convention but they didn’t resolve them. What’s worse is that they can’t resolve them between now and Election Day.

The further you dig into the KSTP-SurveyUSA poll, the more bad news you find for the DFL. How bad that news is this November remains to be determined but it’s bad news nonetheless.

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