With Jim Oberstar anxiously clinging to a 1-point lead against Chip Cravaack, tonight’s SUSA polling says plenty to the average political junkie. Below the horserace numbers, though, lurks major obstacles for Oberstar, not the least of which is that the polling is based on a partisan split of 41 percent DFL, 28 percent GOP and 28 percent of voters are unaffiliated.

According to Charlie Cook’s PVI index chart, Minnesota’s Eighth District is a D +3 district, meaning there’s a 3 point gap in registration between Democrats and Republicans. If that’s accurate, and there’s no reason to think it isn’t, then Oberstar is in serious trouble.

If he can’t hold a sizable lead with that big of a gap in partisan identification, he’s justified in sweating bullets. This paragraph alone is justification for Oberstar to start buying Maalox by the case:

Oberstar holds almost all Democrats, his challenger holds almost all Republicans, but Independents in 2010, as they are doing in congressional districts across the country, break 5:3 Republican. Oberstar has an advantage among women, but the Republican has an offsetting advantage among men. Voters 50 and over favor Oberstar by 10 points; voters under 50 favor Cravaack by 14 points. If younger voters turn out in greater-than-usual numbers in this election, Cravaack will win. Those who rarely vote in midterm elections but who tell SurveyUSA they are certain to vote in this year’s contest back the Republican 5:4. Those who vote more frequently are divided. Voters who say they are more enthusiastic about voting in 2010 than they have been in prior years strongly back Cravaack; those less enthusiastic or no more or less enthusiastic than in the past strongly back Oberstar.

Independents breaking to the challenger by a 5:3 margin is astonishing. Another telling number is that those who “rarely vote in midterm elections but who tell SurveyUSA they are certain to vote in this year’s contest” insist that they’ll “back the Republican 5:4.”

Those categories alone spell disaster for Oberstar. Chip is winning independents by a 25 point margin and winning the cohort I’ll aptly title the “suddenly awakened voter” cohort by a 55-45 margin tells me several things. First, the fact that there’s even enough “suddenly awakened voters” to track should startle Oberstar.

I don’t think that these are TEA Party activists because that cohort would probably break at a 95-5 percent margin against Oberstar. I suspect that these are people that haven’t attended TEA Party events but who understand that Congress can’t keep spending at the pace they’re spending.

Here’s another statement that jumped off the page at me:

If younger voters turn out in greater-than-usual numbers in this election, Cravaack will win.

I’ve talked with a number of CR’s throughout Minnesota, including Ryan Lyk at UMD. Young people are pumped up about the great candidates they’ll get to vote for this year. Chip will reap a major benefit from their enthusiasm.

There’s still time left before the polls close Tuesday evening so there’s lots of work left to do. Still, based on this snapshot, I’d rather be fitting into Chip’s shoes than Oberstar’s.

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