The latest MPR News/St. Paul Pioneer Press poll finds that half of those surveyed say they intend to vote for Democrat Amy Klobuchar. Forty percent say they intend to vote for Republican Mark Kennedy. The Independence Party's Robert Fitzgerald and the Green Party's Michael Cavlan are polling at 1 percent each. Seven percent are undecided.
Klobuchar's campaign manager Ben Goldfarb says he's pleased to see Klobuchar with a 10-point lead.
"This poll shows what almost every other one has in this race, which is that people of Minnesota really want change; they don't want more of the same. They know Amy Klobuchar is the candidate who is going to bring that change and Congressman Kennedy is the candidate who is running on more of the same," according to Goldfarb.
The Mason Dixon poll was taken between October 26 and October 30. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The last Mason Dixon poll, taken in September, had Klobuchar with a 15-point lead, so Kennedy has cut gap. Kennedy's campaign manager, Pat Shortridge, says the poll is consistent with their numbers. Shortridge says he's confident Kennedy will stage an upset victory on election day.
"This reflects what we're seeing in the numbers. It definitely reflects that Mark has momentum. He's gaining and the race is tightening and that come Election Day it's going to be a close race that a some people, a lot of people, are going to see a very unexpected result," Shortridge said.
Nearly a quarter of the 625 likely voters surveyed say they consider the war in Iraq the most important issue in the Senate race. Minnetonka resident John Zeiss is one of those people. He says he's going to vote for Amy Klobuchar because he's unhappy with Republican leadership in Congress. He also says he's disappointed with how President Bush has handled the war in Iraq.
"It's been something that we shouldn't have gotten into and it's just one mistake after another. It clearly hasn't made the country any more secure," Zeiss said.
But Barbara Smith, of Woodbury, thinks President Bush is handling the war appropriately. Smith, a Republican, says she intends to vote for Kennedy. She likens the war in Iraq and the war on terror to World War II. She says she wants to see President Bush and Congress take a firm stand regarding the war on terror.
"They attacked us on 9/11. We have to stand up to them because, like the President said and others have, 'if we don't and we seem weak, it will be easy for them to step in,'" she said.
Minnesota's U.S. Senate race was expected to be one of the more competitive races in the country. DFLer Mark Dayton is retiring so both parties were preparing for a hard-fought contest for the open seat. But the race never reached top-tier status among the national parties.
Polls have consistently shows Klobuchar leading by wide margins. Two polls released this week, one by St. Cloud State and one by the University of Minnesota, show Klobuchar leading Kennedy by more than 20 percentage points.
University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs says Klobuchar is benefitting from voter angst over the war in Iraq and President Bush.
"A big factor for Klobuchar is that the Senate race this year is setting up as a referendum on Washington, on President Bush and particularly the war in Iraq," according to Jacobs. "I have never seen one issue dominate voters concerns as Iraq is dominating."
Kennedy, Klobuchar and Robert Fitzgerald will take part in two more debates before Election Day. The first will be held in Rochester tonight. The other will be held in St. Paul on Sunday.