KSTP poll: Senate matchups and Pawlenty-as-VP

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With all the action lately in the presidential race, you might have forgotten that there’s a relatively big Senate race going on around here these days, too. A recent poll for KSTP shows a statistical dead heat between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and DFL challenger Al Franken, with Coleman leading by just a point, 47-46. The poll found Coleman leading Mike Ciresi in a hypothetical matchup 51-40, and leading Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer 58-30. The poll also asked about a matchup of Coleman against frequent candidate Darryl Stanton, in which Coleman would win 58-29 — so for this poll, it looks like 29 to 30 percent is the portion of the electorate that would vote for a tasty burrito over Norm Coleman as long as the burrito had a “D” after its name. SurveyUSA, the firm conducting the poll, has previously polled the race several times and found the Coleman-Franken matchup within the statistical margin of error three times in a row dating to last October.

The electability arguments being forwarded by Franken’s opponents on both sides of the aisle just don’t seem to be sticking.

It was clear from the beginning of this race that Franken would be the candidate with the least actual political experience — Coleman has served in the U.S. Senate for five years, and before that as the St. Paul mayor who ran against Jesse Ventura for governor. Ciresi is well-known in legal and political circles, and ran for Minnesota’s other Senate seat in 2000, before losing in the primary to eventual victor Mark Dayton. But Franken’s campaign team has done a solid job managing expectations and setting its own campaign message instead of responding to the muck being thrown by the Republican Party and its minions on the Internet.

Is the Franken team doing anything extraordinary and truly “outside the box”? Not really, as far as I can tell. They’re raising money, managing a statewide message machine, talking to party activists, building coalitions, all the things a major federal campaign needs to do. They’re just doing them pretty well, considering how tightly focused on them and their candidate the Republican noise machine is right now.

That poll also asked about the possibility that Gov. Tim Pawlenty would be chosen as John McCain’s running mate — Minnesotans were split dead even on whether he would be a good running mate, 43-43, with 13 percent unsure. However, a solid majority — 61 percent — said they thought if chosen as McCain’s running mate, Pawlenty would not be able to serve effectively as governor.

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