While the Fox 9 news headline this morning was "Emmer leads," digging a little into the Rasmussen poll results demonstrate a lot of good news for Margaret Anderson Kelliher, and some numbers of concern for Tom Emmer. Despite a bruising end of session, Kelliher's favorability numbers are improving. Emmer's tabula rasa stage is ending, and as voters get to know him, his favorability numbers are falling.
But first, shame on Fox 9. Throughout this gubernatorial campaign, we're going to need to brush up on the difference between the words "majority" and "plurality." This morning's release of a new Fox-Rasmussen poll featured a lede that magically transformed an Emmer plurality lead within the margin of error into a "majority." To their credit, it was fixed within four hours, but not before a friend captured this.
I have a pretty low opinion of Rasmussen's polling methodology. It's conducted by robocall, done over the course of one day, and relies on a weighting methodology that makes predictions about who is likely to pick up the phone. That said, I have a feeling that the topline results are pretty close to reflecting reality - at this stage we have a tight race within the margin of error, and there are a lot of folks who don't have a strong opinion. The very narrow differences in the results when you poll Emmer vs. each DFL candidate suggest that people are still largely thinking in generic GOP vs. DFL terms at this stage.
The top three candidates (Emmer, Anderson Kelliher, and Dayton) all have combined favorability ratings that are statistically tied (45-48% favorable.) But digging a little deeper into the numbers yields a picture that is great news for the Kelliher campaign, and not so great news for the Emmer campaign. The numbers that matter are the strong approval and disapproval numbers, especially in this race, it's early and there are several candidates who are not household names. Rasmussen does a daily tracking poll for their "Presidential Approval Index," which is created by subtracting the percent of people that "strongly disapprove" from the percent who "strongly approve." Today's Presidential Approval Index was at -22, the lowest it has ever been for President Obama. By the way, that same number derived for Minnesota is +2, significantly higher than the national average.
Conducting a "Gubernatorial Candidate Approval Index" analysis with the Rasmussen poll results shows that only Margaret Anderson Kelliher has more strong approval than strong disapproval. Given the timing of this poll, close on the heels of what was largely considered to be a disappointing end of session for the DFL leadership, this is great news for her campaign. And what's even better is that this is a significant improvement over the last time Rasmussen asked the same question on March 10th.
Another interesting number to track is the "Dunno?" index. This is the percentage of people who respond "not sure" to the favorability question. And this too bodes well for Kelliher.
Basically, as people have gotten to know Emmer, he has picked up more strong unfavorable ratings. Kelliher, while remaining stable in name recognition, has improved in all phases of her favorability. Dayton remained stable. Entenza should be heartened that his ad buy has significantly improved his name recognition and improved his favorability as well.
However, two issue questions have to be of concern for the DFL. Slight majorities favor repeal of the health care reform law and passage of an Arizona-style immigration bill. These are trends that favor Emmer, as he will be campaigning against the early Medicaid opt-in that was part of the end-of-session budget package. It remains to be seen whether the DFL attempt to frame the opt-in as "getting Minnesota's money back" or Emmer's framing of the opt-in as "bringing Obamacare to Minnesota three years early" will win out.
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