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Poll shows presidential candidates in dead heat

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Obama vs. McCain
Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. Of those polled 55 percent said the economy is the biggest issue, but are split on which candidate better understands the economy.

The latest Wall Street Journal poll has Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain in a statistical dead heat in Minnesota.

The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, shows that 47 percent of those polled back Obama, while 45 percent back McCain.

That's within the poll's margin of sampling error of 2.7 percentage points.

When a similar poll was conducted in July, Obama was leading McCain 46-44 percent. The poll surveyed 1301 likely voters in Minnesota between Sept. 14 and Sept. 21.

  "Sen. John McCain is within striking distance in Minnesota for two reasons: Republicans held their convention in the state and the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin brought a new wave of independent women to the GOP ticket, offsetting a big swing by independent men to Obama," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

      The poll of 1,301 Minnesota voters was commissioned by The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.com. Surveys for Colorado, Michigan and Wisconsin were released simultaneously - all showing bare Obama advantages.

      While each man has the support of 90-plus percent of voters who identify with their respective party, McCain holds a slight edge among independents -- 45 percent to 43 percent. 

Those voters could hold the key to the state's 10 Electoral College votes, which are awarded to the ticket that wins the popular vote.       

Eighty-five percent of those surveyed said their mind was made up and they didn't see their vote changing before Election Day. 

"This race is going to be neck-and-neck and go down to the wire," said Ben Golnick, McCain's regional campaign manager. "Clearly the state is in play and is competitive and we have the positive momentum on our side."

      Sensing opportunity, McCain's campaign is expanding its presence in the state. Golnick said the campaign will open six more offices this week, bringing its total to 15. Obama's campaign said Sunday it was shifting staff from North Dakota to Minnesota and Wisconsin. North Dakota has not voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1964. 

Obama's support is strongest in the Twin Cities, while McCain is setting the pace in the suburbs.

      A majority of Minnesota voters thought Obama and McCain made good running mate choices; Obama went with fellow Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, McCain gave the second slot to Palin. 

Asked whether they would want either to become president if necessary, 50 percent of voters felt more comfortable with Biden and 41 percent favored Palin.

Fifty-five percent of those polled said the economy is the biggest issue, but are split on which candidate better understands the economy. 

Obama spokesman Nick Kimball said the sharpened focus on the economy plays to the Illinois senator's advantage.        Voters, he said, "want someone who represents a clear break from the last eight years."

      On the race in general, Kimball said Obama never saw Minnesota as a state to be taken for granted. 

"It's a closely divided state," he said. "We've had close elections in the past."

      President Bush lost to Democrat John Kerry by 3.5 percentage points in 2004 after coming closer to taking the state in 2000.

Pollsters also surveyed voters on the U.S. Senate race, but did not include Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley.

The poll found that Republican Sen. Norm Coleman is leading DFL challenger Al Franken 49 percent to 42 percent.