New state poll on presidential race calls into question whether Minnesota’s a “swing state” at all


In Minnesota and Wisconsin–the states would-be veep Tim Pawlenty is supposed to help John McCain win–Obama now leads by wide margins. A new WashPost/WSJ survey gives Barack Obama his biggest lead yet in Minnesota

The swing-states poll released today by Quinnipiac University is a major buzz item in political media. And like the much-publicized Newsweek poll from last week–the one that showed Barack Obama holding a 15-point edge on John McCain nationwide–it appears to contain nothing but good news for Obama. The new survey, jointly sponsored by WashPost and the Wall Street Journal, measures likely voters in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Colorado.

We should note that, although it’s no guarantee of accuracy, the sample size in this survey of Minnesotans was 1,572–or two to three times the sample size of many of the state polls we’ve seen along the way. Consequently, the margin of error here is relatively small: +/-2.5 percent.

Some high points:

* Of the four states surveyed in this release, Obama enjoys the biggest leads in Minnesota (+17) and Wisconsin (+13). These two states, you will remember, are the ones where McCain campaign internal polling suggests Tim Pawlenty as VP candidate would have the most impact. Even if Pawlenty were fantastically popular, which he’s not, he couldn’t deliver a 15-20 point turnaround in either state. If these margins hold through the summer, they amount to a formidable tactical argument against adding Pawlenty to the ticket.

* Then again, it’s already doubtful that adding Pawlenty to the ticket gives McCain any demonstrable benefit in Minnesota. On the Pawlenty as VP question, the Quinnipiac results are remarkably similar to the results obtained by the Rasmussen organization when it has posed the question (see previous MnIndy items on those Rasmussen polls and the Strib’s seeming bias in the matter): There are more Minnesotans who say Pawlenty’s presence on the ticket would make them less likely to vote for McCain rather than more likely, this time by a 23-18 margin. A majority, 56 percent, say it wouldn’t matter.

* Over in Wisconsin, the only other state polled about Pawlenty’s inclusion on the GOP ticket, a whopping 4 percent say it would make them more likely to vote Republican, compared to 7 percent less-likely and 81 percent doesn’t-matter.

* On the Hillary as VP question, 49 percent of likely Minnesota voters said they would not like to see her on the ticket (68 percent of Republicans, 37 percent of Democrats, and 47 percent of independents), compared to 34 percent who said they would. If she winds up on the ticket, 21 percent say they’d be less likely to vote Democratic, 19 percent say more likely, and 57 percent say it doesn’t matter.

* Minnesotans give George W. Bush the lowest job approval ratings of any of the four state polled: 24 percent overall, and just 18 percent among self-identified independents. The latter number is particularly brutal for McCain, who needs a hefty percentage of independents to compete here.

More: Prior to these Quinnipiac numbers, the two most recent presidential polls of Minnesotans had pegged Obama’s lead here at 13 points (Rasmussen, 6/11) and 1 point (SurveyUSA, 6/13-16). Check out all recent Minnesota presidential polls by other survey organizations at Pollster.