Tuesday, July 20, 2010

And now for some horserace coverage

Tuesday night marked the release of the latest poll on the race for Governor, a new Rasmussen Poll commissioned by Fox 9. I've made my point before on the deficiencies of the Rasmussen methodology (one day, robo-call), but since Rasmussen has done two other polls using this same method there are interesting trends to track. Rasmussen is skewed toward the GOP - I finally saw one Rasmussen Poll showing a D in the lead, and that was Hickenlooper leading McInnis in the Colorado Gov race. Sure, it was a two point lead within the margin of error after a week of McInnis getting hammered for plagiarizing, but with Rasmussen you take what you can get.

And this makes the topline results very rosy for the DFL - both Dayton and Kelliher lead Emmer by a 4-5 point margin, right around the 4.5 percent margin of error. Entenza leads by one, and that's a statistical tie.
Dayton 40
Emmer 36
Horner 10

Kelliher 40
Emmer 35
Horner 11

Entenza 37
Emmer 36
Horner 12
This poll was conducted on July 19, so this is on the heels of Emmer's Waitergate debacle, which the Emmer campaign must be eager to put behind them. The problem for Emmer is that his approval numbers continue to deteriorate.

In my last post on Rasmussen polling, I started tracking the "Approval Index" and the "Dunno Index" for the candidates. The Approval Index is the number you get when you subtract the "strong disapproval" percentage from the "strong approval" figure. Since we are still early in the race, this index gives you an indication of voters who have already made up their minds on a candidate. The Dunno Index is the percentage of voters who answer "not sure" to the favorable question.

Approval Index

The striking thing about these numbers is twofold. First, Emmer has gone from a fuzzy "not sure, but positive" approval index to a strongly negative one. He has only 7% strong positives, by far the lowest of all the candidates but Horner, who nobody seems to know. Three times as many respondents have a strongly negative opinion of Emmer than have a strong positive opinion. Second, Kelliher has squandered her advantage in favorability ratings in a short time, while Dayton has improved slightly.

For context, consider that President Obama rates a -6 on the Approval Index, and Tim Pawlenty sits at -8. I guess one way of seeing it is "a pox on all of their houses." With that environment, you'd think Tom Horner would be getting some serious traction, but you'd be wrong.

Dunno Index

Entenza's finally closing the gap on the Dunno Index, but after spending hundreds of thousands on television ads and direct mail he'd better. Horner is still an unknown quantity, but another question asked in this poll must be concerning for Horner. When asked if they were "more or less likely to vote for an independent candidate" this election - 22% said they were more likely, and 47% said less likely. This is horrible news for Horner, since you'd expect that in this supposedly anti-politician and anti-incumbent environment that people would be more amenable to a third party candidate. Not only have his topline numbers not budged, but Horner's not seen as a real alternative. He needs to get in the television game soon or risk being completely written off by voters.

The rightyblogger spin has already begun - claiming that the DFL lead is in the margin of error (with the exception of Entenza, it's right on the border), claiming that Emmer's combined unfavorability rating is lower than the DFL candidates (true, but Emmer's soft support, relatively high dunno numbers and negative favorability trend are more salient features.) The key message I take out of this poll is that Emmer has squandered his opportunity to float by through the primary season with a vaguely positive voter opinion. He's being defined by the tip penalty issue, and the lack of enthusiasm on the part of GOP voters is the most damning thing for Emmer. Seriously, in this election cycle? If the GOP standard bearer in Minnesota doesn't excite an excitable base, there's a serious problem afoot. The "not ready for prime time" whispers risk becoming a chorus with just one more mistake on the part of the Emmer campaign.

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