In the first public polling released since the state primary, KSTP's SurveyUSA poll shows DFL Governor Mark Dayton outpolling Republican challenger Jeff Johnson.
Conducted over a three-day period from Aug. 19-21, the poll shows the incumbent governor with 49 percent of those polled saying they would vote for him. That compares to 40 percent who would cast their ballots for Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner and former state lawmaker. The poll was conducted among 600 "likely voters" across the state.
University of Minnesota political analyst Larry Jacobs told the station he doesn't expect Dayton's lead to hold. He notes that when incumbent Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty was on the ballot in 2006, he held a 14-point lead over DFL'er Mike Hatch at about this same time period. Pawlenty ultimately won by less than one percentage point.
"That lead is probably going to dwindle," Jacobs says. "That is pretty common as voters learn more about the challenger."
On his campaign Facebook page, Johnson notes that the gap between the two candidates is in the single digits. "We're going to win this thing," he writes in a post.
In a story anticipating the race, the Star Tribune noted that Republicans have their work cut out for them, making the case to state voters that a change in the governor's office is necessary. The story notes that under Dayton, the economy is "on the upswing," recovering all of the jobs that had been lost during the recession.
Speaking to WCCO at the Minnesota State Fair, Johnson called himself "the underdog" in the race. While conceding that the state's unemployment rate has dropped during the Dayton administration, Johnson noted that what he termed "the underemployment rate" is high. That is the number of people who are working in jobs that are beneath their qualifications and experience.